Ballet West dancer overcomes the odds despite a limb difference

Nov 2, 2023, 6:48 PM | Updated: Nov 8, 2023, 3:04 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — Ballet West’s latest production features a young woman who has overcome a physical challenge.

Olivia Book is the only known dancer at a professional ballet company in the U.S. with a limb difference.

Ballet West’s “Stars and Stripes” always inspires its audiences. In this season’s production, there is even more to impress.

Olivia Book is a member of the cast from Ballet West II and is making a statement at the same time. Born with a right arm limb difference, she is unique in the professional ballet world.

“I really loved all the teachers here and all the friends I made, so I was really comfortable with coming here,” Book said.

Book (right) and KSL TV’s Carole Mikita (left) speaking about Book becoming a dancer. (KSL TV)

From 3 years old, Book, from Ontario, Canada, loved to dance and watch videos of ballerinas.

“I just loved how elegant and graceful they looked, and I knew it was hard work, but they made it look so easy, and I really wanted to be like that,” she said.

Her parents supported her, her teachers encouraged her, and so did her friends.

“It was nice to always go to dance class with a friend so I didn’t maybe feel lonely if the kids were, say, not sure about my arm,” Book said.

Ballet West Artistic Director Adam Sklute discovered Olivia while judging a dance competition in Toronto.

“This was so inspiring that then and there, I offered her a position at the Ballet West Academy,” Sklute said.

When she was a child, Book’s father built her a special higher ballet barre.

“We kind of had to change the height of it to be perfect for my arm, and then I just brought it on the plane here and can use it here. It’s been really helpful,” Book said.

Book has a young girl practicing her skills as a dancer.

She came to Ballet West Academy in 2019, became a trainee in 2021, and then was promoted to Ballet West II, the second company, in 2023.

Book has been awarded Outstanding Performance and Special Commendation from Jury at the Youth American Grand Prix in 2019. She also received the Adam Sklute Scholarship in both 2020 and 2022. And has also appeared on The Next Step television show.

Ballet West has opened a door, and Book is stepping into her life here, amazing her teacher and fellow dancers.

“Talk about the strength that that woman has! The way that she has to hold herself, support herself! We take it for granted the use of both arms. And she has had to realign herself and do all of this and can achieve all of this in classical ballet,” Sklute said.

With her “Stars and Stripes” performance, Book is having her American Dream moment. She says she is grateful.

“Thinking about my life and how far I’ve come, I’m just so happy that I get to do this every day!” she said.

And Sklute says why not?

“I feel like it’s high time!” Sklute said.

Ballet West opens its production of “ Firebird,” “Fever Dream,” and “ Stars and Stripes” at the Capitol Theatre in Salt Lake City on Nov. 3rd. The performances continue through Nov. 11th.

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Ballet West dancer overcomes the odds despite a limb difference