Founding member of Ballet West choreographing high school’s musical production

Posted at 10:20 PM, Nov 22, 2015
and last updated 2015-11-23 00:20:45-05

WEST JORDAN, Utah -- He's a legend in the state of Utah when it comes to dancing, and the Utah man who is a founding member of Ballet West has volunteered to choreograph a local school’s production.

Rowland Butler has agreed to choreograph West Jordan High School's run of "Thoroughly Modern Millie."

Butler, 76, was a founding member of Utah’s Ballet West more than 55 years ago and part of the Odyssey Dance Theater.

He later taught classes at the University of Utah and ran the musical theater program there. He also choreographed for Pioneer Theater for 14 years.

With all that experience, Butler jumped at the chance to work with high school students.

“It’s been wonderful,” he said. “These kids have been a very, very good and hard-working.”

Not all the students knew how to dance when they started, but Butler says that's why he's there.

“Most of them non-dancers, and a choreographer's job is to make them look better than they really are,” he said. “But they work hard, so the job was easy.”

Hunter Benson, a senior at West Jordan High School, said Butler helped them learn to move.

“I’m a horrible, horrible, horrible dancer: like the worst possible dancer, probably ever, but he just kind of took me under his wing and made me feel comfortable, and he made sure to make lots of jokes so that it was fun and enjoyable,” Benson said.

With Butler’s help, the students got a taste of history, too.

“They are learning the black culture and what the black culture--black Americans--gave to the United States and to the world,” Butler said, adding: “What would the world be like without jazz?”

The famed choreographer says many of the students will probably go on to be in community theater, or it'll be one more thing to check off the bucket list.

“For a lot of these kids, well all of them, [they] will remember this show for the rest of their lives,” Butler said.