“There are a lot of people who think ballet is this thing or that thing,” says Julie Kent, Artistic Director of The Washington Ballet. “But it’s actually so many things. I always love when an audience’s opinion is expanded about what our art form can be, how it can make you feel, and what it looks like.”
Kent, busy rehearsing her company for its season opener next week, recently took a break to discuss her approach to dance.
“I’m at heart a storyteller,” she says. “So I always look for beginning, middle, and end [to the pieces I choose]. I think about setting up the dancers. What do they need to dance, and what will highlight their incredible talents? The pieces are handpicked to showcase the dancers and their strengths, and to show the spectrum of the artform.”
Since taking the helm of The Washington Ballet in the fall of 2016, Kent, who had a 30-year career as a principal dancer with New York’s American Ballet Theatre, has pushed the company to new limits.
“The repertoire of a ballet company is a real indicator of the caliber of the institution,” she says. “We have brought this organization the full spectrum of masterworks from Tudor, Fokine, Balanchine, Ratmansky, Cranko, Robbins. These are very difficult ballets that have been danced by the greatest companies in the world, and so right away you’re able to develop a standard of measure for your own company.”
Next week’s season opener, “TWB Welcome,” will include Serenade, the first ballet made by George Balanchine after the legendary choreographer arrived in America in 1934, and Ravel’s Bolero, a work for six dancers choreographed by Alexei Ratmansky.
Additionally, guest artists Katherine Barkman, Connor Walsh, Stella Abrera, and Marcelo Gomes will perform a series of pas de deux. Later in the season, the company will perform works by contemporary masters Mark Morris, Paul Taylor, and Merce Cunningham, and in February will unveil a new world premiere production of Sleeping Beauty.
“We’re working very hard to invigorate the dance following here in Washington,” says Kent. “Our goal is that The Washington Ballet becomes the greatest artistic pride of the city.”
TWB Welcomes runs Wednesday, Sept. 26 to Sunday, Sept. 30 at the Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theater. Two rotating programs. For more information and tickets call 202-467-4600 or visit washingtonballet.org.