Kevin Chaffee Talks to Septime Webre about his first decade as artistic director of the Washington Ballet.
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.