Distinguished Alumni

2012 – Sandra Birch Allen

Sandra Birch Allen, BFA 1964, MFA 1967, Associate Professor of Dance at Brigham Young University, was named the 2012 Distinguished Alumna of the Department.  Sandra began teaching at BYU in 1968, and rose to be the Ballet Division Administrator, basically creating, nurturing and growing the program of ballet studies at BYU for the past 44 years. The University of Utah Department of Ballet particularly wishes to honor Sandra Allen’s leadership in ballet studies in higher education.

Prior to her studies at the University Sandra was one of the charter members of the Utah Civic Ballet, the predecessor to Utah’s Ballet West.  During her studies and for a year following her graduation with the MFA, Sandra continued to perform with the Utah Civic Ballet, performing demi and solo roles in many of Willam Christensen’s classic works.

While at BYU Sandra also served as Associate Chair of the Dance Department, choreographed over 20 original works, restaged over 13 works for BYU Theatre Ballet, and wrote two textbooks: Reference Resource for Teaching Ballet Part I: The Teaching of Ballet, An Eclectic Approach, and Part II: Ballet Methodologies, A Comparative Analysis. In 2011 she received the Gerrit de Jong, J.r Gratitude Award. In 2008 the  CORPS de Ballet International, the organization of ballet professors in higher education, bestowed its Outstanding Service Award on Sandra.  

While visiting our campus on the occasion of the award, Sandra delivered a compelling lecture about the history of ballet in high education and Willam Christensen’s place within that history.

2011 – Jiang Qi

Jiang Qi received his early ballet training at the Beijing Dance Academy, he also received BFA and MFA from University of Utah. Department of Ballet. He has performed with the National Ballet of China, National Song and Dance Ensemble, Twyla Tharp Dancers before joined Ballet West in 1986 as a soloist,and was promoted to a principal dancer in 1988 and ballet master in 2000. In 2001, he joined the College Conservatory of Music, University of Cincinnati as an assistant professor, and was promoted to an associate professor with tenure in 2005, and to professor in 2011. As a guest artist, he has danced or choreographed works or taught master classes for Hong Kong Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Cincinnati Ballet, Tulsa Ballet, Louisville Ballet, Balletmet, Singapore Dance Theater, Toshiko Sato Ballet of Japan, Utah Regional Ballet, Tianjin Ballet of China, Utah Ballet, Guangzhou Ballet of China, Suzhou Ballet of China, Joffrey Ballet School, HK Jean Wong School of Ballet, Beijing Dance Academy, Shanghai Theater Academy, and Shandong University of China.

In 1980, he won the top prize in All China Dance Competition and in 1985, he was deemed the premier artist of China by the Chinese government. His recent awards including Artistic Excelence in Choreography Project from The National Endownment For The Arts, and a Third Place for Choreography at 2008 China National Dance Competition. In 2010 he was featured on CCTV-China’s National TV’s documentry film “Artist”. He is Currently an Artistic Director of Dance China NY–a Manhattan based professional dance troupe where he present works with combine of tradition and contemporary themes.


2010 – Bart Robinson Cook

Bart Cook earned a reputation around the globe and across the U.S. as one of the finest ballet dancers of the 20th Century. He added choreographic accomplishments, and distinction as a master teacher of ballets by George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins to professional companies on every continent. His ability to engage the youngest dancers led to a parallel commitment to community ballet education.

Bart Robinson Cook was born into a dance family in Ogden, Utah, preceded by an older sister in ballet. He registered for tap lessons to contain his energy, but soon moved to classical dance. As a teenager, Bart studied in Salt Lake City with Willem Christensen, who founded the company that became Ballet West.

Bart joined as an Apprentice at 17 and began performing. He also entered the University of Utah, to study music and dance. He became aware of Balanchine ballets for the first time, and the repertoire of New York City Ballet. He appeared in a summer stock production of Jerome Robbins’ West Side Story. Jacques d’Amboise, a celebrated NYCB dancer, saw Bart dance and helped him secure a scholarship to the School of American Ballet in New York to refine his technique. SAB was, and is, the premier training ground for NYCB. Young Bart was on his way, leaving the University and Ballet West.

Balanchine, director of the School and the Company, invited him to join the Company within a year, 1971, and soon cast Bart in leading roles. He became a Principal Dancer in 1979.


2009 – Douglas C. Sonntag

Douglas C. Sonntag serves as the Director of Dance for the National Endowment for the Arts; a position he has held since 1997. From 2004 to 2008 he was also the Director of the Office of National Initiatives where he supervised work on several signature Endowment programs including Shakespeare in American Communities, Save America’s Treasures, American Masterpieces: Three Centuries of Artistic Genius, and the NEA Arts Journalism Institutes.

Previously, he served as program administrator and senior program specialist for the Arts Endowment’s Dance Program where he supervised grants to dance companies, dance presenters, dance media grants, and dance preservation projects. From 1981-1986, Mr. Sonntag was general manager of the Repertory Dance Theatre in Salt Lake City, Utah. In addition, he was an associate instructor for the University of Utah’s Institute of Arts Administration and a staff specialist for the Department of Ballet. From 1980-81, Mr. Sonntag was the project director of the Utah Playwriting Conference, a joint project of the Sundance Institute and the Utah Arts Council.

He has served as a judge for the American College Dance Festival/Dance Magazine Awards, and as a panelist for the Utah Arts Council, the Jerome Foundation, and the Carlisle Project. He has spoken at and served on panels many organizations including Dance/USA, the Association of Performing Arts Presenters, the International Association of Blacks in Dance, and at the International Tanzmesse NRW in Dusseldorf, Germany, and the Monaco Dance Forum, Monte Carlo, Monaco.

Mr. Sonntag attended the American College in Paris and the University of Utah graduating with a B.F.A. in Ballet and an M.F.A. in Theater with an emphasis in arts administration.


2008 – Victoria Morgan

Over the past eleven years, Cincinnati Ballet has experienced tremendous growth and critical success under the leadership of Artistic Director Victoria Morgan. As the company enters its 45th Anniversary Season in 2008-09, Ms. Morgan takes on the additional role as an executive leader, serving for the first time as both the Artistic Director and CEO of Cincinnati Ballet.

Ms. Morgan arrived in Cincinnati in 1997, taking immediate steps to raise the company’s standard of excellence by attracting celebrated dancers, choreographers, and ballet masters to the Ballet from the international dance realm. Ms. Morgan is on the board of Dance Magazine and national membership organization DanceUSA, has served on the NEA evaluation panel, was presiding judge for the 2005 New York International Ballet Competition, and was a judicator for the Benois de la Danse Awards Gala in Moscow, Russia in April 2006.  Ms. Morgan came to Cincinnati Ballet after nearly a decade as resident choreographer for the San Francisco Opera. Prior to that, she was a principal dancer for San Francisco Ballet (1978-1987) and Ballet West (1969-1978). Her repertoire included leading roles in numerous classical ballets such as Giselle, Swan Lake, Cinderella and many ballets by George Balanchine. Ms. Morgan also danced in modern and contemporary ballets by William Forsythe, James Kudelka and Val Caniparoli, among others. In addition, Ms. Morgan performed lead roles for television and film and her choreography was featured in the PBS documentary, The Creation of O.M.O.  Ms. Morgan graduated Magna Cum Laude with an M.F.A from the University of Utah.