North American Premiere for Mats Ek's Juliet & Romeo

Marie Lindqvist as Juliet's nurse. Photo by Carl Thorborg, Courtesy Royal Swedish Ballet.

In 2013, the Royal Swedish Ballet celebrated its 240th birthday. Never a company to be mired in tradition, RSB commissioned prolific and provocative contemporary choreographer Mats Ek to create a new version of Romeo and Juliet. True to form, Ek turned the ballet on its head, reversing the title, using new music and creating a world of simmering brutality. In recognition of his creativity, the ballet won the 2015 Olivier Award for Best New Dance Production.


Until now, North American audiences haven't had a chance to see this work. Royal Swedish Ballet will give Juliet & Romeo its North American premiere June 1–4, at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, and June 10–12, at the Segerstrom Center in Costa Mesa, California. "Mats' version is based on the very first version of the play," says RSB artistic director Johannes Öhman, referencing an Italian story by Luigi Da Porto which pre-dates Shakespeare. "The inverted title is important because in this ballet, Juliet is absolutely the main role. The story focuses on her perspective." It also conjures a modern cityscape—rather than courtly Verona—with its stark lighting, shifting walls and pedestrian costumes.

Photo by Carl Thorborg, Courtesy Royal Swedish Ballet.

Ek chose to create his ballet—performed in technique shoes and barefoot, rather than on pointe—to a composite score by Tchaikovsky, instead of the Prokofiev score used by Sir Kenneth MacMillan and others. "It might be surprising, especially for a knowledgeable ballet audience," Öhman says. "But Tchaikovsky's music fits Mats' revised storyline."

The RSB hasn't visited the Kennedy Center in over 15 years, and Öhman is excited to bring such a new work to the U.S. "The company has a very close, collaborative relationship with Mats," he says. "His style is direct and progressive, and it's a big honor for RSB to perform at such an important venue."

It's a unique opportunity for audiences, too. Ek, who announced his retirement in January, will take the rights to his choreography with him. RSB is licensed to perform Juliet & Romeo for two more years, but after that it might be a long time before the ballet visits North America again.

Ballet Careers
Gray Davis with wife, ABT soloist Cassandra Trenary, after his graduation from the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy. Courtesy Trenary.

When Gray Davis retired from American Ballet Theatre in July of 2018, he moved home to South Carolina, unsure of what would come next. Last month, just over a year later, Davis graduated from the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy. Today, he's working as a deputy for the Abbeville County Sheriff's Office.

Though Davis danced in ABT's corps for 11 years and is married to soloist Cassandra Trenary, to many he's best known for saving the life of a man who was pushed onto the subway tracks in New York City in 2017. The heroic effort earned him the New York State Liberty Medal, the highest civilian honor bestowed by a member of the New York State Senate. We caught up with Davis to hear about how the split second decision he made in the subway affected the course of his life, what it's been like starting a second career and what he sees as the similarities between ballet and law enforcement.

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Sponsored by BLOCH
Courtesy BLOCH

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The team at BLOCH developed their line of Stretch Pointe shoes to address dancer's most common complaints about the fit and performance of their pointe shoes. "It's a scientific take on the pointe shoe," says Roe. Dancers are taking notice and Stretch Pointe shoes are now worn by stars like American Ballet Theatre principal Isabella Boylston, who stars in BLOCH's latest campaign for the shoes.

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Megan Amanda Ehrlich, Courtesy LEAP Program

Claire Sheridan wanted to change the status quo. Leading up to the 1990s, she recalls, "there was a 'shut up and dance' mind-set," and as the founder of the dance program at St. Mary's College of California and a longtime teacher in professional companies, she had seen too many dancers retire with no plan for a successful career transition. "At that time, if you thought about education and the future," she says, "you were not a committed dancer. I wanted to fight that."

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I'm a college freshman, and my dance program isn't challenging enough. We only have ballet three times a week and a few hours of modern, and my classmates aren't as dedicated as I am. There's a small dance company nearby, where I was hoping to take extra classes, but I don't have a car. I want to transfer, but I feel like I won't be in good enough shape for auditions. —Tara

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