In 1903 a small red souvenir book was circulated throughout Brigham City with this announcement:
“It is with pardonable pride that the management opens the New Academy of Music and Dancing for the use of those who appreciate education and refinement. . . To amuse, entertain and educate, is the design to be accomplished . . . Music and Dancing . . .should be a part of the education of every thoroughly equipped young person.”
Managers of the new Academy, Christian and Peter Christensen, had learned music from their father Lars Christensen, Danish immigrant and early Brigham City settler. They had also been a part of a popular orchestra which played for dances throughout Northern Utah and Southern Idaho.
The elegant new two-story building measured 116×46 feet, with the upper floor used for dancing, and the lower level an open-air pavilion and refreshment area. In addition to well-attended dances, the Academy offered dance instruction. A former pupil Evelyn S. Kay recalled:
“We learned the waltz and the two-step and the quadrille — all those pretty dances. They gave a big cotillion every once in a while. It was a beautiful building, and the atmosphere was lovely.”
Christian and his wife Elizabeth had four sons, all trained from infancy in music by their father and in dance by their uncle Peter who had studied ballet in New York. Three of these four sons became national figures in the ballet world: Willam as founder of the Portland Ballet and Utah’s Ballet West; Harold as director of the San Francisco Ballet School; and Lew as director of the San Francisco Ballet.
The Christensen family sold the Academy building in 1909, but its name and use continued through the 20s. It was subsequently used as a roller skating rink, a bowling alley and the office space for Thiokol Chemical Corporation. In 1953 it was purchased to house American Sportswear, a clothing company. The building was vacated in 1980.
Meticulous care has been taken to restore some of the most incredible features of the original dance academy – bringing history back to life, and honoring it’s rich heritage as the birthplace of Ballet West.