Love is In the Air for American Ballet Theatre’s “Romeo and Juliet” at Kennedy Center
January 30, 2023 @ 11:00am
The American Ballet Theatre (ABT) will perform its acclaimed “Romeo and Juliet” at the Kennedy Center from February 15 to February 19, with some of ballet’s finest pairing up for a marvelous evening of dance set to Sergei Prokofiev’s moving score.
For the February 18 evening performance, ballet sensations James Whiteside and Gillian Murphy will be dancing in the title roles.
“This is an iconic production, telling the story of ‘Romeo and Juliet,’” says Murphy, who has been a principal with ABT since 2002. “Clearly this is a story about true love, but it offers so much more. The music is so powerful and the choreography, along with the sets and costumes, really enhances it all.”
Murphy and Whiteside are great friends and regularly perform together, which has helped the duo establish their own “dance language” to shine in performances.
“Gillian and I have danced together my entire time here at American Ballet Theatre, which has been just over 10 years now,” Whiteside says. “She is the reigning ballerina supreme of American Ballet Theatre, and it always feels like getting back into something really comfortable whenever we’re cast together. I’m very lucky I get to dance with her.”
Murphy credits their chemistry on stage to their real-life friendship and ability to joke around and be real with each other.
“With Romeo and Juliet, there needs to be a really powerful connection, so it’s extremely helpful when there’s an authentic, natural connection rather than a lot of acting,” she says. “We can feel free to express ourselves fully. We know how to read each other’s body language and go with the flow.”
Seeing as the ballet will be performed right after Valentine’s Day, many couples are expected to be in the audience as part of their holiday celebration.
“When you really think about it though, this is a terrible story for Valentine’s Day, because spoiler alert, they die in the end,” Whiteside laughs. “But the themes of extreme love, infatuation, obsession and family — all of these things that come into play when you really care about someone — come into play. I think it’s a really wonderful way for people to connect with passion and love.”
Murphy adds that getting dressed up and going to see dancers who have trained their whole life and are pouring their hearts out in telling this timeless tale is as romantic as you can get for the special occasion.
Whiteside admits he’s spent a lot of his life not being terribly romantic. Still, over the past few years, he has made more of an effort to see the romance in life a little bit more, and he thinks Valentine’s Day is a perfect opportunity to “go for it,” and not be embarrassed or ashamed of getting a little romantic. And so, he encourages everyone to come out to see the ballet.
“‘Romeo and Juliet’ is one of the most iconic, classical ballets in ABT’s repertoire,” Whiteside says. “It’s not just about wonderful dancing, but about love, storytelling and drama, and it’s a really full theatre experience,”
Other couples performing on select nights are Aran Bell and Devon Teuscher; Calvin Royal III and Catherine Hurlin; Thomas Forster and Christine Shevchenko; Herman Cornejo and Cassandra Trenary; Daniel Camargo and Isabella Boylston; and Cory Stearns and Hee Seo.
For more information or to purchase tickets ($49-$169), visit here.
The Kennedy Center: 2700 F St. NW, DC; 202-467-4600; kennedy-center.org // @kennedycenter
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