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Star-crossed return: Oklahoma City Ballet revives 'Romeo & Juliet'

In a rehearsal studio in the Susan E. Brackett Dance Center, Alvin Tovstogray and DaYoung Jung are dying tragically — and with carefully choreographed grace — all over again.

Five years after Oklahoma City Ballet Artistic Director Robert Mills premiered his take on "Romeo & Juliet," the principal dancers are reprising their roles as the iconic star-crossed couple.

"This is my eighth season with the company, and besides 'The Nutcracker,' this is the first (big) ballet I'm about to repeat," Tovstogray said. "The choreography is mostly the same. We are tweaking it; of course, Robert wants to put his touch on it now that five years have passed. It's very interesting for us just applying everything that we've learned in the past five years to this production."

For Mills, the decision to revisit his rendition of William Shakespeare's popular love story was as simple as looking at the calendar.

"Our dates at the Civic Center were Valentine's Day weekend this year in February," Mill said. "We hadn't done the ballet in five years. ... What better weekend to produce one of the most romantic stories that's ever been written?"

OKC Ballet will perform "Romeo & Juliet" Friday-Feb. 16 at the Civic Center, and the scene this time will be laid with sets and costumes by internationally known designer Alain Vaes.

"They're gorgeous. ... It will be a very different production this time around," Mills said. "I certainly have enjoyed the ability to tweak and change aspects. ... So, I think, in general, this year's production will be a much more elevated production."

Young love

The ballet is again partnering with the Oklahoma City Philharmonic, which will perform Sergei Prokofiev's romantic score live. Music Director Emeritus Joel Levine will return to the podium to conduct.

"He's conducted this ballet many times, and he conducted it for us when we did it last in 2015. That's a great relationship to have. And Joel is so understanding of the needs of dancers," Mills said. "Prokofiev, in my opinion, did a brilliant job in fleshing out all of the characters musically. ... It's wonderful for me to approach again for a second time."

Principal Guest Artist David Ward also has become well acquainted with Prokofiev's score. Alternating performances with Tovstogray, the Englishman, who joined OKC Ballet last fall, is starring in his fourth production of "Romeo & Juliet." He said it is interesting to see how each choreographer puts together the pieces of the classic tale.

"The first few times I approached this role ... it was from the play: reading the play and getting ideas from there. I think as I've gotten older, it helps me a lot more watching screen: watching the movies, the (Franco) Zeffirelli movie, the Leonardo DiCaprio movie. That helps me a lot with the acting," Ward said.

Ward is partnering with Principal Dancer Courtney Conner Jones after performing opposite her in OKC Ballet's autumn production of Michael Pink's "Dracula." Conner Jones, who joined OKC Ballet in 2017, is taking on the star-crossed tale for the first time.

"I'm coming in fresh but kind of with a lot of life experience. ... It's been great dancing with David because he has done it before," she said. "As I've gotten older in my career, getting into the acting is really rewarding. I love to be technical, I love to make my steps perfect if I can, but knowing that the audience, they're going to take home this raw emotion, I want to make sure that is coming forward."

While Shakespeare wrote Romeo and Juliet as teenagers, Conner Jones is married to fellow dancer Sam Jones, with whom she has a daughter, Gwyneth.

"We're a very similar age and we're in a similar time in our career ... so I feel like that's helped us a lot," Ward said. "We're not 16 anymore, but you can think back to that time where you had your first girlfriend or boyfriend and how that made you feel and how you would kind of lose it over anything. It's a little bit different now, but you can take yourself back there to some of those emotions."

Big break

The emotions are strong for Jung when she thinks back on playing Juliet in OKC Ballet's 2015 production.

"It was such as big role for me back then as a soloist," said Jung, who was promoted to principal dancer three years ago. "Now that I'm revisiting it, I feel like it's so fresh. ... Over the years, I've changed a lot in my artistry, in my personal life, and just revisiting this, it's so different than five years ago."

Jung said she is especially excited to partner again with Tovstogray, who, like her, joined the company in 2012.

"This just works perfect. We had done it five years ago, and back then we were so young. Five years later, he's my most trusted partner," she said.

"To get to do it a second time, I'm like the luckiest girl. ... It's very special."

ON STAGE

Oklahoma City Ballet's 'Romeo & Juliet'

When: 8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, and 2 p.m. Feb. 16.

Where: Civic Center Music Hall, 201 N Walker.

Tickets and information: www.okcballet.org or 848-8637.

Related Photos
<strong>Principal dancers Alvin Tovstogray, left, and DaYoung Jung rehearse on Jan. 30  for "Romeo & Juliet" at the Oklahoma City Ballet's Susan E. Brackett Dance Center in Oklahoma City. [Nate Billings/The Oklahoman]</strong>

Principal dancers Alvin Tovstogray, left, and DaYoung Jung rehearse on Jan. 30 for "Romeo & Juliet" at the Oklahoma City Ballet's Susan E. Brackett Dance Center in Oklahoma City. [Nate Billings/The Oklahoman]

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-c5a1947635bbfa09d0b0f7d1d4d7bce2.jpg" alt="Photo - Principal dancers Alvin Tovstogray, left, and DaYoung Jung rehearse on Jan. 30 for "Romeo &amp; Juliet" at the Oklahoma City Ballet's Susan E. Brackett Dance Center in Oklahoma City. [Nate Billings/The Oklahoman] " title=" Principal dancers Alvin Tovstogray, left, and DaYoung Jung rehearse on Jan. 30 for "Romeo &amp; Juliet" at the Oklahoma City Ballet's Susan E. Brackett Dance Center in Oklahoma City. [Nate Billings/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> Principal dancers Alvin Tovstogray, left, and DaYoung Jung rehearse on Jan. 30 for "Romeo &amp; Juliet" at the Oklahoma City Ballet's Susan E. Brackett Dance Center in Oklahoma City. [Nate Billings/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-234f87c20ba442852322934a02d564bd.jpg" alt="Photo - Principal dancers Alvin Tovstogray, left, and DaYoung Jung rehearse on Jan. 30 for "Romeo &amp; Juliet" at the Oklahoma City Ballet's Susan E. Brackett Dance Center in Oklahoma City. [Nate Billings/The Oklahoman] " title=" Principal dancers Alvin Tovstogray, left, and DaYoung Jung rehearse on Jan. 30 for "Romeo &amp; Juliet" at the Oklahoma City Ballet's Susan E. Brackett Dance Center in Oklahoma City. [Nate Billings/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> Principal dancers Alvin Tovstogray, left, and DaYoung Jung rehearse on Jan. 30 for "Romeo &amp; Juliet" at the Oklahoma City Ballet's Susan E. Brackett Dance Center in Oklahoma City. [Nate Billings/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-b1ec987c6dd4e13d4e47d9f8dd667168.jpg" alt="Photo - Principal dancer Alvin Tovstogray, left, and Erik Thordal-Christensen, a member of the corps de ballet, rehearse on Jan. 30 for "Romeo &amp; Juliet" at the Oklahoma City Ballet's Susan E. Brackett Dance Center in Oklahoma City. [Nate Billings/The Oklahoman] " title=" Principal dancer Alvin Tovstogray, left, and Erik Thordal-Christensen, a member of the corps de ballet, rehearse on Jan. 30 for "Romeo &amp; Juliet" at the Oklahoma City Ballet's Susan E. Brackett Dance Center in Oklahoma City. [Nate Billings/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> Principal dancer Alvin Tovstogray, left, and Erik Thordal-Christensen, a member of the corps de ballet, rehearse on Jan. 30 for "Romeo &amp; Juliet" at the Oklahoma City Ballet's Susan E. Brackett Dance Center in Oklahoma City. [Nate Billings/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-e34c09c999860fd09f0b9bd5d659fb4f.jpg" alt="Photo - From left, Erik Thordal-Christensen, a member of the corps de ballet, and principal dancer Alvin Tovstogray rehearse on Jan. 30 for "Romeo &amp; Juliet" at the Oklahoma City Ballet's Susan E. Brackett Dance Center in Oklahoma City. [Nate Billings/The Oklahoman] " title=" From left, Erik Thordal-Christensen, a member of the corps de ballet, and principal dancer Alvin Tovstogray rehearse on Jan. 30 for "Romeo &amp; Juliet" at the Oklahoma City Ballet's Susan E. Brackett Dance Center in Oklahoma City. [Nate Billings/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> From left, Erik Thordal-Christensen, a member of the corps de ballet, and principal dancer Alvin Tovstogray rehearse on Jan. 30 for "Romeo &amp; Juliet" at the Oklahoma City Ballet's Susan E. Brackett Dance Center in Oklahoma City. [Nate Billings/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-54113a0fc605ef64bb0bf94f7dbefed2.jpg" alt="Photo - Principal dancers DaYoung Jung, right, and Alvin Tovstogray rehearse on Jan. 30 for "Romeo &amp; Juliet" at the Oklahoma City Ballet's Susan E. Brackett Dance Center in Oklahoma City. [Nate Billings/The Oklahoman] " title=" Principal dancers DaYoung Jung, right, and Alvin Tovstogray rehearse on Jan. 30 for "Romeo &amp; Juliet" at the Oklahoma City Ballet's Susan E. Brackett Dance Center in Oklahoma City. [Nate Billings/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> Principal dancers DaYoung Jung, right, and Alvin Tovstogray rehearse on Jan. 30 for "Romeo &amp; Juliet" at the Oklahoma City Ballet's Susan E. Brackett Dance Center in Oklahoma City. [Nate Billings/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-2f4f0634a603b9996cc197a2cdef2d44.jpg" alt="Photo - Principal dancers DaYoung Jung, front, and Alvin Tovstogray rehearse on Jan. 30 for "Romeo &amp; Juliet" at the Oklahoma City Ballet's Susan E. Brackett Dance Center in Oklahoma City. [Nate Billings/The Oklahoman] " title=" Principal dancers DaYoung Jung, front, and Alvin Tovstogray rehearse on Jan. 30 for "Romeo &amp; Juliet" at the Oklahoma City Ballet's Susan E. Brackett Dance Center in Oklahoma City. [Nate Billings/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> Principal dancers DaYoung Jung, front, and Alvin Tovstogray rehearse on Jan. 30 for "Romeo &amp; Juliet" at the Oklahoma City Ballet's Susan E. Brackett Dance Center in Oklahoma City. [Nate Billings/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-ca7cec4df92805f67c0af1975c036b1d.jpg" alt="Photo - DaYoung Jung and Alvin Tovstogray played the title roles in Oklahoma City Ballet's 2015 production of "Romeo &amp; Juliet," and they are reprising the leads as the company revisits the production over Valentine's Day weekend. [Shevaun Williams photo] " title=" DaYoung Jung and Alvin Tovstogray played the title roles in Oklahoma City Ballet's 2015 production of "Romeo &amp; Juliet," and they are reprising the leads as the company revisits the production over Valentine's Day weekend. [Shevaun Williams photo] "><figcaption> DaYoung Jung and Alvin Tovstogray played the title roles in Oklahoma City Ballet's 2015 production of "Romeo &amp; Juliet," and they are reprising the leads as the company revisits the production over Valentine's Day weekend. [Shevaun Williams photo] </figcaption></figure>
Brandy McDonnell

Brandy McDonnell, also known by her initials BAM, writes stories and reviews on movies, music, the arts and other aspects of entertainment. She is NewsOK’s top blogger: Her 4-year-old entertainment news blog, BAM’s Blog, has notched more than 1... Read more ›

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