Whitman College's dance production of the ballet "Romeo and Juliet" will present the classic tale through contemporary as well as classical styles.
The show begins at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday in Cordiner Hall on the Whitman College Campus. Admission is free.
Whitman adjunct instructor of dance Idalee Hutson-Fish and her former Whitman student, Nate Freeman, will combine their talents for the choreography.
Before graduating from Whitman in 2004, Freeman both adapted the show and danced the role of Romeo in the 2004 Whitman Dance production. Freeman is now studying law at Yale. He will return to Walla Walla not only as one of the choreographers of this year's updated performance, but also as the dancer for the role of Romeo. Whitman senior Tillie Gottlieb will dance in the role of Juliet.
Freeman's version of Romeo and Juliet is based on the 1996 Baz Luhrman "Romeo and Juliet" film, which starred Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes.
"It draws a lot of energy from the Baz Luhrmann film with its frenetic energy and its modernization of the script. I wanted to create a ballet that used different types of contemporary as well as classical styles to create the characters," Freeman said.
Yet Freeman's adaption includes many unique aspects, including a wide variety of musical selections.
"Probably the most unique element of this version is the score itself, which alternates from music by Mozart and Beethoven to the Cardigans and the soundtrack to 'Pirates of the Caribbean.' I also returned to the text of the play itself in order to draw inspiration for the choreography; many of the movements in the ballet are explorations of specific lines or short dialogues," Freeman said.
The adapted performance is modern and includes contemporary aspects to accompany the ballet.
"The choreography is more contemporary than the traditional ballet, but it's still balletic. There are also elements of jazz and hip-hop. The time period is modern -- for example, there's a disco instead of a traditional ball -- to go with the music," said Richael Best, a Whitman sophomore who is dancing as a Capulet in the performance.
Freeman wants the dancers to have a say in the choreography as well.
"I believe choreography should be a collaborative endeavor where possible; I try to come up with the overall shape and accents of the piece and then to let individual dancers explore movements that feel right for them within that framework," he said.
The costumes for the production highlight the contrast between the two feuding families in "Romeo and Juliet."
"The production is set up so there are really clear divisions between families: the Capulets are in white, the Montagues are in black, and we have a couple battle scenes," Best said.
Freeman said he enjoys working with his former dance instructor, Hutson-Fish, in this new and different capacity as a choreographer.
"It's also a real delight to be working with Ida again, as I owe her a great debt for almost all my dance training as well as the inspiration behind many of my choreographic ideas that I've played with over the past years," Freeman said.
While Freeman notes that it is difficult to balance his role in the performance with law school, he has made connections between law school and the dance performance.
Freeman said, "I've been reminded of how communication on the stage is just as powerful (if not more so) than communication in a courtroom."
The evening also includes a ballet titled "Impressions of Igor," which is about Igor Stravinsky and Coco Chanel, and performances by the Coriolis Dance Collective from Seattle. Choreographers include Idalee Hutson-Fish, Raffaele Exiana, Kara Davis and Gillmer Duran. Hutson-Fish directs the show.
"It's a good time to see various dance styles and the talent of many different members of the Whitman community," Best said.