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Mark Goldweber, ballet master for Ballet West and director of Ballet West II, died Dec. 9 of cancer. He was 53.
His life cast a long shadow throughout the local and national dance community. As the announcement of his death Friday spread on email and the Internet, Ballet West staff received emotional notes from dancers, administrators and dance writers across the country.
Yet it was a highly personal loss that permeated the Utah studios on Monday morning, as Goldweber's passing felt like a death in the family.
Artistic director Adam Sklute called his longtime colleague and friend a shining light in the dance world and a genius in the studio. "Mark's passion and enthusiasm for ballet, music and culture was infectious and inspiring for everyone around him," Sklute said.
Sklute and Goldweber's friendship stretched back 25 years, beginning as dancers and later faculty and staff with the Joffrey Ballet. Before the Joffrey moved its home from New York City to Chicago in 1995, Goldweber left to become ballet master for Oregon Ballet Theater. In Portland, Goldweber worked with the company's executive director, Jóhann Jacobs, and costume director David Heuvel, both of whom later moved to Utah for the same posts at Ballet West.
When Goldweber moved to Chicago in 1997 to become Joffrey's ballet master, he roomed with production manager Michael Currey and dancer Calvin Kitten. Currey later became production manager at the Utah company, and Kitten now teaches at Ballet West as well as at the University of Utah.
Sklute and Goldweber worked on the artistic team under Joffrey director Gerald Arpino. They became such close colleagues that when Sklute accepted the Utah position, Goldweber asked if he could come along, Sklute said.
As Sklute gathered a talented staff in Salt Lake City, Goldweber in 2007 became part of the team that would change the face of the newly developing Ballet West II. "He immediately affected the company with his attention to detail and built BW II into a performing group in its own right," Sklute said.
Dancer Joshua Whitehead, from Chesapeake, Va., became a second company member last year. But when he first landed in Goldweber's class, Whitehead said he had no idea how to act. "I was mouthing off to Mark as everyone else stood and gasped."
Whitehead said the first thing Goldweber taught him was discipline, not a dance step. "Mark was very patient," Whitehead said. "He taught me how to listen and learn how to be a dancer."
Goldweber always remained a dancer, even after he retired from the stage and began teaching, said Ballet West demi-soloist Beau Pearson. "He really gave himself to the art form more than anyone I've ever known."
And he was a consummate teacher, whose corrections in class were more than just repetitive reminders. "They were something that would open up a whole new idea and change everything you were doing," Pearson said.
Whitehead and Pearson laughed on Monday as they recalled Goldweber's remarkable sense of humor, fairness, and generosity. "He nicknamed me Ketchup," Whitehead said, "Because he said that I was behind, but he knew I'd catch up."
In class on Monday, Pearson felt as if he could sense Goldweber's encouraging presence. Whitehead wore a green Puma jacket that Goldweber had loaned him. "Mark gave me so much, but I had so much more to learn from him about life and ballet," he said.
Goldweber was born in Coconut Grove, Fla., and received early training under Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo dancer, Thomas Armour. Goldweber went on to study at The Washington School of Ballet and The School of American Ballet in New York City.
He joined The Joffrey Ballet in 1975 as a member of The Joffrey II Dancers, and was promoted to the main Joffrey Ballet in 1977.
In 2003, he played himself in Robert Altman's movie "The Company."
Goldweber is survived by his father Morton, his brother Adam, and his sister, Ruth.
Remembering Mark Goldweber
P In lieu of flowers, remembrances or gifts to Ballet West II may be made at balletwest.org. Click "Donate online" under the "Support" tab or call 801-869-6919.
A memorial is planned in mid-January; for information, call Ballet West at 801-869-6900.
Comments may also be posted on Adam Sklute's Facebook page.