When Septime Webre took over as artistic director in 1999, the Washington Ballet urgently needed a transformative presence. While its nonagenarian founder, Mary Day, had ceded certain freedoms to promising successors to select, direct, and choreograph works – including Choo San Goh, who brought early fame to the company but died young, and world-class dancer Kevin McKenzie, who departed to take over American Ballet Theatre – she remained reluctant to relinquish full control of the company she had founded in 1976. The board, however, clearly felt a new hand was needed. Enter Septime Webre, a dynamic and urbane 37-year-old director of the American Repertory Company, who soon proved to be an inspired choice to lead D.C.’s premier dance troupe into the 21st century.
WASHINGTON LIFE: What did you hope to accomplish when you arrived ten years ago?
SEPTIME WEBRE: I came with two goals. The first was to develop the Washington Ballet into a truly national company. The second was to connect it to Washington itself – to reach out to the city as a whole, not just be in a dance world ivory tower.