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BYU student Elizabeth McKnight performs with Ballet West Academy at Thanksgiving Point in the production of “Crescendo.” (Luke Isley)

World Ballet Day — February 7 — encourages people around the world to go out and experience ballet.

The Daily Universe talked to two BYU dancers about why ballet is important to them and what motivates them to dance in celebration of World Ballet Day.

BYU student Elizabeth McKnight has been dancing since she was 4 years old. Her decision to pursue it professionally came out of a love for ballet and her dream of becoming a prima ballerina.

I loved the physicality and artistry of it,” McKnight said. “It felt like the perfect combination for me.”

Elizabeth McKnight has danced since the age of four. (Michelle McKnight)

McKnight studied ballet with several Utah-based ballet studios and companies, including the professional company Ballet West.

Eventually, she made her way to BYU, where she was cast in the leading role of Odette as a freshman in the BYU Ballet Theatre’s production of “Swan Lake.”

“I was a freshman and very intimidated,” McKnight said. “It was a blessing because that had been my dream role since I can remember.”

Becoming a ballerina isn’t only about taking ballet classes. McKnight said ballet is very time-consuming. The role of Odette alone demanded that she commit 28 or more hours a week to rehearsals and training.

To stay in shape as a ballerina, you have to go to ballet class every day,” McKnight said. “If they have taken a day off, ballerinas should be consistent in their daily stretches and core exercises.”

Elizabeth McKnight performs the role of Odette with the BYU Ballet Theatre as a freshmen at BYU. (Tyler Smith)

McKnight said staying in shape is one of the most important things for a ballerina — summer being the most intensive training time of the year.

McKnight said she loved attending summer intensive training, where ballerinas train with teachers from all over the world daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

She said ballerinas are also encouraged to do cross-fit running to help build up their endurance. 

The best part of being a ballerina, according to McKnight, is performing.

“I love the moment of when you step on stage and you just get to be you,” McKnight said. “It’s the moment when nothing else matters except the one thing you love to do.”

Anna Hall has been dancing since the age of two. (Elisa White)

Like McKnight, BYU student Anna Hall started dancing at a very young age. Her favorite part of ballet is also performing, but for its storytelling element.

“There’s a beauty in being able to tell a story without speaking,” Hall said.

Hall grew to love interacting with other dancers onstage after performing in The Nutcracker for 10 years.

Hall’s advice to anyone interested in pursuing ballet is to be patient with themselves. 

“Everyone wants to be really good really fast,” Hall said. “You have to be patient with the progress that your body makes and be okay with moving slowly.”

She described ballet as a form of dance requiring practice, dedication and precision — all things Hall said take time and commitment.

Becoming a ballerina takes patience, hard work and commitment, according to both McKnight and Hall.

Hall said it’s an art form that will forever be a part of who she is and will continue to be with her for the rest of her life.

The timeline below shows the history of a professional ballerina in celebration of World Ballet Day. (By Riley Waldman)

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More information about World Ballet Day can be found online.

For information about the BYU Ballet Theatre, visit BYU’s website.

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