Romeo and Juliet's timeless love story to return to Ballet West's stage

Katlyn Addison and Hadriel Diniz embrace during a rehearsal of Ballet West's Romeo and Juliet.

Katlyn Addison and Hadriel Diniz embrace during a rehearsal of Ballet West's Romeo and Juliet. (Beau Pearson, Ballet West)


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SALT LAKE CITY — For the first time in 25 years, Michael Smuin's version of Romeo and Juliet will appear on the Ballet West stage with a message reflective of more modern times.

This version of Romeo and Juliet first premiered at Ballet West and in Utah in 1988, with productions lasting into the mid-90s. The ballet tells the well-known story of feuding families, young love and hatred.

"I decided now to bring back this particular version because it is so exciting for audiences," said Adam Sklute, Ballet West's artistic director. "It has its own unique flavor. It is, at once, intimate and dynamic. It has lots of dancing for every single character and what audiences expect to see on the stage is the full Shakespeare story portrayed by just so many dancers."

The return of the play has provided different sets of challenges, Katlyn Addison, principal artist at Ballet West, said.

"It's bringing back, like old moves, and bringing them into now modern times, but it's still keeping everything very pure and to its story. So personally, it's been tough," Addison said. "It's portraying this young girl, Juliet, and her journey and her story, to become this woman who makes like a choice of choosing love over anything. So for me, putting the movement together with the acting has been a challenge."

Addison has danced with Ballet West since 2011 and was recently promoted to Principal Artist in 2021. Her performances in the upcoming production of Romeo and Juliet will make her the first Black Juliet in Ballet West's history.

Katlyn Addison, a Principal Dancer at Ballet West. plays the role of Juliet in the upcoming production.
Katlyn Addison, a Principal Dancer at Ballet West. plays the role of Juliet in the upcoming production. (Photo: Beau Pearson, Ballet West)

"It is profoundly important to be able to say we can have artists of any ethnicity and any race representing these great roles. That there's no exclusivity on it by race," Sklute said. "That's what's so special about it, is that an artist of her caliber, of her artistry, of her own magic — it transcends race and ethnicity. It ultimately is just about the magic that she brings to the stage."

Among the artistry of the production is the compelling music paired with the choreography.

The performances are accompanied by the Ballet West Orchestra with Sergei Prokofiev's score. The dramatic music paired with the production's careful choreography presents the story in a different way than a play would, Sklute said.

"It moves the heart and the soul in a different way than just hearing the words. You feel the energy through the dance and the magic of it, and I think that that's really what's so great about the art form of classical ballet and why ballet presenting a Shakespeare story can reach people in a different way — a much more visceral and profound way," Sklute said.

William Shakespeare's timeless story captures a more modern era in a way audiences might connect with.

"I feel like this the timing of this ballet is so right. Like right now as a nation we have to come together and love one another despite it all. I feel like this story is about that hate you see between two sides and about innocent young kids," Addison said.

The reflection of modern times in the story is part of the reason for Sklute's selection, he said.

"It's so much us-against-them kind of energy that's going on in the world. And one of the things that I loved so much about this story — and this particular production of the story — was really the understanding that love transcends all," Sklute said.


These two young people loved each other. They loved each other despite the politics of their different worlds and I think that, right now, is so timely because I see it as a way of unifying people.

–Adam Sklute, Ballet West


He continued, "We're all human beings. These two young people loved each other. They loved each other despite the politics of their different worlds and I think that right now is so timely because I see it as a way of unifying people."

The production will be running at Capitol Theatre, at 50 W. 200 South, from Feb. 11 to Feb. 19. An additional performance will be given in Park City on Feb. 26. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit balletwest.org.

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Ashley Fredde covers human services and and women's issues for KSL.com. She also enjoys reporting on arts, culture and entertainment news. She's a graduate of the University of Arizona.

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