August 20th, 2006
Rob Bettmann – Septime Webre, you have been artistic director of The Washington Ballet for seven years, and prior, Artistic Director of the American Repertory Ballet. You have created choreography on your own ballet companies, and also on Pacific Northwest Ballet, Ballet Austin, Memphis Ballet, Dayton Ballet, North Carolina Dance Theater. Can you pick an example, a moment, that you can cite as your favorite experience?
SW- There really are so many. But I can go with this one: the first time the Washington Ballet danced my Carmina Burana. In Jason Hartley’s first solo, there’s a moment where he stands in sous-sous, and executes an entrechat six to grand plie. And I remember chuckling from the back of the house with excitement. Because it seemed to combine so many things that I value in one moment. Great ballet technique. A haunting emotional content. Fantastic music. Wonderful visual design. A powerful architectural sense. Beautiful music (there were 120 singers in the scaffolding, including a gorgeous baritone soloist.) Truly remarkable lighting design (there was an angel above shining light on Jason.) So all of these things that I value about the theatrical experience, and what can happen on stage, seemed to coalesce in one brilliant moment. An entrechat six to grand plie.
What made that moment particularly satisfying is how 1,100 people – across the footlights – were actually on stage with Jason. He has a gift for moving very fully with the audience. It was not just a “theatrical experience” – the design, and the moment visually – but the communication and communion with this audience – that remains a fulfilling experience for me. But I could also pick as a favorite experience the rat toss in the party scene in my new nutcracker, which never fails to get a true belly laugh. Belly laughs in ballet are hard to come by!