High Drama: The Washington Ballet’s Romeo and Juliet

The Washington Ballet brought the classic tale of young lovers and rival families to the Kennedy Center with its adaptation of Shakespeare’s beloved Romeo and Juliet last weekend. The performance featured new choreography by the company’s artistic director, Septime Webre, set to an exciting score by Sergei Prokofiev.

Before the performance, Webre described the score as “bombastic” and “the most dynamic ballet score of the 20th century.” The music, with its beautiful and ironic dissonance, perfectly highlighted and accentuated the drama unfolding on stage. Also framing each scene was a beautiful set that evoked a colorful square in Verona to a dark, musty Capulet tomb. The costumes were very stunning, especially in a party scene where the colors popped with the booming score and stirring choreography.

Webre’s new innovative choreography included a modern element that breathed new life into the classic. His work successfully captured the company’s spirit and energy, as well as the emotion and drama of the plot.

On Thursday night, Michele Jimenez and Runqiao Du danced the lead roles. Jimenez, always stunning, portrayed a very vivacious Juliet, which did not disappoint – her skill is impressive and beautiful. On the other hand, Du’s portrayal of Romeo was noble and, at times, foolish, but his smooth flowing movements were well contrasted with Jimenez’s sharper motions. For Saturday night’s performance, Elizabeth Gaither and Jared Nelson danced the featured roles. Gaither danced a more reserved and shy Juliet, but still allowed her remarkable technique shine through. Nelson portrayed a very expressive and emotional Romeo, which featured his strong bravura style – a showy and masculine technique of dancing. Playing Mercutio on both nights was Jason Hartley, the scene-stealer and crowd favorite. His comedic antics provided lighthearted humor throughout the ballet.

The production was an overall crowd-pleaser, receiving boisterous standing ovations on both nights. The Washington Ballet continues to capture the energetic and sophisticated spirit of the city through the company’s tradition of reinventing old classics and premiering new innovated works.

Coming up next for the Washington Ballet’s season is 7×7: Unplugged, a night of seven new works by seven different choreographers, including GW dance professor Dana Tai Soon Burgess. 7×7: Unplugged will run from May 3-15 at the Washington Ballet Studios.

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