Interlochen Arts Academy Dance Division’s ‘Romeo & Juliet’ ballet to transport audiences to Verona, Italy

With stunning scenic and costume design, Sergei Prokofiev’s romantic score, and original choreography by Interlochen Director of Dance Joseph Morrissey, Shakespeare’s classic tale of star-crossed lovers will entrance and inspire.

Two students dancing

This February, the Interlochen Arts Academy Dance Division will bring the ballet Romeo & Juliet to the stage for the first time—right in time for Valentine’s Day.

The classic tale of star-crossed lovers will run for four performances at Interlochen Center for the Arts’ Corson Auditorium: Friday, Feb. 11 at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, Feb. 12 at 2 p.m.; Saturday, Feb. 12 at 7:30 p.m.; and Sunday, Feb. 13 at 2 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at (The Saturday matinee is free as part of Winterlochen, Interlochen’s annual family-friendly community arts festival.)

In addition to the shows at Interlochen, the company will stage a fifth performance at the Great Lakes Center for the Arts on Friday, Feb. 25 at 7:30 p.m. It will be the third Interlochen Arts Academy ballet production staged at the Petoskey venue.

“With its universal messages of love—and overcoming social, cultural, and ideological obstacles—Romeo & Juliet is a ballet to which everyone can relate,” said Director of Dance Joseph Morrissey. “From the vibrant costumes and set design to our young artists dancing side-by-side with our distinguished dance faculty, this is the largest-scale dance production we’ve ever presented at Interlochen. You’ll really feel like you’re being transported to Verona, Italy.”

Based on William Shakespeare’s iconic tragedy with the romantic score by Sergei Prokofiev, Romeo & Juliet tells the tale of two Veronese teenagers who fall in love despite their families’ long-standing feud. As the familial rivalry intensifies, the couple pursues a perilous path to be together.

Morrissey created original choreography for Interlochen’s production, which showcases the talents of 41 student dancers from 23 U.S. states and Canada. The Academy’s acclaimed dance faculty will also be featured, with Katie Dorn as Lady Capulet, Jurjis Safonovs as Lord Capulet, and Rachel James as Juliet’s nanny. Arts Academy theatre faculty Matt Lindstrom will also appear as Friar Lawrence. 

Romeo & Juliet offers a great creative opportunity for me, both as a choreographer and educator,” Morrissey said. “Unlike Swan Lake or Sleeping Beauty, it’s not a signature work of the late 19th century ballet repertoire, and as a result, I have more freedom to tailor the choreography to highlight the talents of our dancers. I’m challenging them with choreography and artistic expression that capture this unique and moving story.”

Morrissey selected a 2008 recording of Prokofiev’s score by the London Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Mariinsky Theatre Artistic Director Valery Gergiev. “The score, and this recording in particular, has such depth,” he said. “There’s emotion, there’s power, there’s even humor. It’s almost like a soundtrack to a great film you get to experience at a movie theatre.”

Morrissey worked closely with Interlochen’s professional design staff to create sets and costumes that match the vibrancy of the story and choreography. The production will feature 107 different costumes, many of which were purchased from a professional ballet company that previously staged Romeo & Juliet. Interlochen’s costume shop customized each piece for Arts Academy dancers, working closely with rich fabrics including velvets, suedes, and silks, and creating several costumes from scratch.

Set designers Jeff Block and Stephanie Baugher created the production’s original sets, making full use of Corson Auditorium’s state-of-the-art digital projection system. Each scene of the two-act ballet will feature unique set pieces and digital backgrounds.