I remember Septime Webre bounding onto the Kennedy Center stage to give a pre-performance talk for The Washington Ballet audience. He was excited about the choreography we were about to see and proud of his dancers. Like the Pied Piper, his energy captivated audiences. Now, after 17 years as artistic director, he will step down in June.
Maki Onuki of The Washington Ballet. Photo by Paul Wegner.
Webre led The Washington Ballet into a new era. He tripled the budget, expanded the outreach program, brought in top-notch choreographers like William Forsythe and created new story ballets like The Great Gatsby. His Nutcracker with a dancing George Washington at its center is still attracting crowds. His Bach/Beatles program, with choreography by both himself and Trey McIntyre, was a big hit.
In this Dance Magazine feature story from 2008, writer Jean Battey Lewis described some of the upheavals Webre has weathered. But Webre always managed to do the things he cared about. Being part Cuban, he brought TWB to Cuba—one of the few American companies to appear there before President Obama loosened the restrictions. When he brought Bach/Beatles to Turkey, one of the dancers blogged about it for us.
Last spring he paired Misty Copeland with Brooklyn Mack in Swan Lake before she played Odette/Odile with American Ballet Theatre.
And his new Carmen in Havana, an opera with dancers from TWB and its Studio Company, just opened!
Now Webre has told Sarah Kaufman of The Washington Post that he wants to spend more time working in the studio, making dances and coaching dancers. Sound familiar? Just last week we heard Benjamin Millepied say basically the same thing. Maybe it’s getting more and more impossible to live a double life as a choreographer and an artistic director.
We look forward to seeing more Webre ballets and to see what direction The Washington Ballet will take with a new director.