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Ballet West's performance of "Bolero" offers a giant crescendo to ecstasy and more. It's also the last chance to see principal ballerina Romi Beppu on a Utah stage.

Beppu was a principal ballerina at Boston Ballet when Ballet West hired her as a principal dancer in 2008. Though at 34 she is still dancing in her prime, Beppu is retiring from ballet to start a ballet school in Hawaii, her home state. It's a plan she's been developing for more than five years.

"Romi has been a gift to Ballet West on so many levels," said artistic director Adam Sklute. "It's not just because of her exquisite dancing, high degree of professionalism and love for the art. She has been wonderful in bolstering the spirit and positive energy of the company."

Beppu filled a vacuum created by the departure of several principal ballerinas before Sklute took over the company in 2007. When she was hired, she told Sklute she would be retiring soon. "I knew that having Romi for a few years would be better than not having her at all," he said.

Beppu and Sklute agreed to a part-time contract for this season so she could spend time in Hawaii setting up her school. That's why she hasn't been seen with the company since last fall's production of "Carmina Burana."

Sklute plans to fill the principal dancer vacancy by promoting from within the company.

Choreographer Nicolo Fonte praised Beppu's exquisite lines and impeccable technique, saying she is in peak form. "She's like a choreographer's dream, endlessly gifted and very versatile in what she can do," he said.

Beppu came to Ballet West because she wanted to experience a different company, new repertoire and new colleagues before ending her career. "The Ballet West dancers are very good," she said. "Definitely on par with any major American company."

This is the right time to say goodbye to a career she has adored and begin sharing what she has learned from working with many of today's principal figures in the ballet world.

"I wanted to retire at a good place, while I'm still loving it," Beppu said, "and my body is not broken. I'm happy for others who continue longer. This is just right for me."

Celia R. Baker

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