Belteshazzar: A Perilous Tale is a full-length story ballet in three acts, created by Ballet 5:8 Artistic Director Julianna Slager in 2015. The work brings an old, familiar and yet relevant story to life in the form of classical ballet. Featuring kings and kingdoms, royal egos, unfathomable dangers and mysterious dreams, the ballet takes audiences to the ancient Middle East for a wild ride alongside the young Daniel and his unwavering integrity. Set to the fabulous music of Benjamin Britten’s score originally used for Prince of the PagodasBelteshazzar is a beautiful ballet with powerful message.

The Story 

Belteshazzar in the ancient Middle East with the young man Daniel and three friends. Daniel and his friends are captured and taken into captivity in Babylon, far away from their homes. The foreign, Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar, selects Daniel and his friends to serve as advisors in his royal court. Daniel rises to royal favor through his repeated success at interpreting dreams, serving as an interpreter through the reigns of three different kings and several dramatic adventures.

Eventually, other royal officials begin to envy Daniel's longstanding favor and plot to undermine his now powerful position. They convince the then King Darius to outlaw prayer to anyone besides the king. This clearly goes against Daniel's convictions, as he is devout man of prayer to the God Most High. Daniel continues to pray despite the decree, and soon after he finds himself being thrown headlong into a den of lions. No match for the schemes of the royal officials, however, Daniel's God miraculously shuts the mouths of the lions until Daniel is rescued.


In 2013, Ballet 5:8 Artistic Director Julianna Slager did what many of us living in the hip, digital age of the 21st Century would assume to be unthinkable. Slager took an ancient story from the Bible - and not only an ancient story, but a dusty, difficult story that even avid Bible readers tend to avoid - and used it as the basis of a neoclassical story ballet. The ongoing success of Slager's The Story of Job demonstrated that using Biblical stories for ballets could result in beautiful, engaging, powerful works of art. 

Belteshazzar: A Perilous Tale is a continuation of Slager's passion for breathing life and relevancy into meaningful stories. With a complicated storyline, the idea for the ballet quickly grew into a full-length project complete with three acts and multiple principal roles: Belteshazzar (Daniel), and the kings Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, and Darius. 

For the music, Slager wanted to use a true classical score that captured the beauty and continuity of a full-length ballet. When Slager received permission from the estate of Benjamin Britten to use the score originally composed for the ballet Prince of the Pagodas, the project was complete. 


The creation and 2015 premiere of "Belteshazzar" was partially supported by an Individual Artist Program Grant from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events, as well as a grant from the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency through federal funds provided by the National Endowment for the Arts.