To celebrate Valentine’s Day in the most dance-centric way possible, we sat down with five powerhouse dance-teaching couples to talk about their love stories. What do they admire about each other? What are their couple goals and their teaching philosophies, and how do they make their relationships work, especially when they work together? Get ready to swoon!
Rex Tilton and Allison DeBona are a dance match made in heaven. The Ballet West principal and soloist have commanded the stage together since Tilton joined the company in 2008 (DeBona joined in 2007). The two gained national attention during their stint on the CW series “Breaking Pointe.”
Together, they are not only dynamic performers and artistic soul mates, but compassionate and effective teachers in the classroom. For the past three years, they have teamed with Ballet West to create a summer intensive: artÉmotion. The program is meant to be a stepping stone toward a future with Ballet West Academy. Last summer, 17 of the dancers who attended artÉmotion were accepted as company trainees.
Photos by Jim Lafferty
Rex: We met when I came to Salt Lake City to audition for Ballet West. The first time I saw her I was completely blown away—I thought she was the most beautiful girl in the room. I kept thinking, “I really hope I get a job here!” We became friends after that, but she was with someone else at the time, so it wasn’t a thing for a while. Then the next year we got to dance together in a pas de deux, and it ignited a flame. We haven’t left each other’s side since.
Allison: Rex is so consistent! Watching run-throughs of ballets can be very stressful because you feel nerves for your fellow dancers. You think, “I hope they do OK,” over and over, but nobody ever has to do that with Rex. They can trust him to be successful and to get the job done.
Rex: There’s no denying that Allison is a very talented dancer—anyone can see that. But more than being technically proficient, she is an incredible performer. She is good at switching from one character to another. She can go from being ethereal and enchanting in “Emeralds” to a completely evil person in another ballet. She is an amazing actress.
Allison: Being off of work at Ballet West for three months in the summer is not ideal. To help, I wanted to find a job that Rex and I could enjoy doing, that would also allow us to travel and stay in shape. Teaching and creating this intensive has made that possible for us. It’s been such a huge blessing. I was always afraid of how I would eventually transition out of performing, but now it’s all a little less scary.
Rex: We love teaching children, but we also thought it was important that we held an adult program as well. The response we got after the first adult session was really incredible. We came to see that our culture deems ballet to be something that is only for people who can perform at an incredibly high level, and we don’t buy in to that. We feel like ballet should be something for everyone to appreciate at a physical level at any age. We believe it can bring joy and confidence into people’s lives and encourage them to really value dance.
Allison: It’s gratifying and we love it, but we would be lying if we said that teaching didn’t come with challenges. The biggest one I face is knowing how to build my students’ self-confidence. So many of them are wonderfully talented, but they don’t see that in themselves. It is so important to me that I bring out the best in them and show them how strong they are.
We played the Newlywed Game with Rex and Allison—check out how they did!