Student Highlight: Abbey McWhirter


Sophomore Abbey McWhirter came to Denver Online last year due to her rigorous dance schedule at Colorado Ballet. Participating in the Pre-Professional training program there, she needed a schooling option that allowed her to complete school around her passion of dance. However, not only was she able to pursue dance outside of school, she was also able to incorporate her interests into school projects as well.

At DOHS, I am lucky to have teachers who encourage me to use my artistic abilities in the classroom. In English, I found myself struggling to come up with an idea for my honors project after reading Romeo & Juliet. As I was sitting at the studio, I thought about how cool it would be to stretch myself in not only my schoolwork, but my dancing by creating a piece of movement that outlined the evolution of Juliet’s character. As a dancer, I find it easy to exemplify changes in a person through movement. My goal through my choreography was to show how people change when impacted by emotions, such as love.


1Juliet’s Evolution: Translating Shakespeare’s words to movement
By: Abby McWhirter

In the play, Romeo and Juliet, author William Shakespeare develops Juliet’s character by using dialogue to show how love changed her from an innocent young girl to a mature woman who ended her own life in the name of love. When the reader first meets Juliet, it is evident that she does not wish to be married or find love at the mere age of 13. She says, “It is an honor that I dream not of,” (Act 1, Scene 3) when responding to her mother’s questions about marriage. This moment shows how Juliet is not looking for love, nor wants anything to do with it. At the beginning of my choreography, I sought to make the movement lighthearted and less internal. There are many moments where I feel as if I am flying as I dance, which I feel can be related to innocence. This sense of innocence is further portrayed when Juliet first meets Romeo. In response to Romeo’s desire for a kiss, she responds with, “Ay, pilgrim, lips that they must use in prayer (Act 1, Scene 5).” This response shows Juliet’s innocence as she tries to deflect his attempt to kiss her, by her telling him that their hands touching are simply enough. Juliet exhibits a shy quality to her, as she seems too timid to allow Romeo to kiss her, further exemplifying her innocence at the beginning of the play. This trait eventually changes when she finds herself deeply in love with Romeo.  In the movement, there is a point where I, the dancer, runs across the room and is grabbed by something. I feel that the sudden stop of the previously continuous and soft movement is when Juliet feels love for the first time. Love and fate pull Juliet to meet Romeo. The movement becomes more grounded and different as Juliet falls in love.

Juliet voices her thoughts of Romeo aloud as she sits on her balcony. She says, “O Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo?/Deny they father and refused thy name./Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love,/And I’ll no longer be a Capulet (Act 2, Scene 2).”As exemplified by this famous scene, Juliet has pledged her love to Romeo and voices that she will go as far as changing her name from Capulet so they can be together. While the movement is not straightforward when showcasing how Juliet declared her love for Romeo, there is a moment where the choreography leads the dancer to “walk down the aisle”, just as Juliet married Romeo. The movement throughout the “walk” is slow until the dancer turns to face “her love”. I feel that Juliet moved quite fast paced through her relationship. I tried to show this through the quick steps, to where she steps forward with her ring. From that point, I feel that the movement grows dark once again, yet it is not frantic. Juliet knows that she must make a decision after Romeo is placed in exile, and this part of the choreography was made to show that Juliet thought through this aspect of her life, more than the others. Each step is very thought-out and calculated up into the point where the dancer lays on the ground for the first time, I tried to show how Juliet knew in her heart that she wanted to be with Romeo, so indeed her decision was a mature and throughout one, as the movement was clean and calculated.

3In the book, Juliet’s character evolves even more into a much more mature woman as she finds herself facing a life apart from her true love. Juliet is forced into a marriage with Paris, while she finds herself already bequeathed to her only love, Romeo. He has been sentenced to exile, and she finds herself faking her death, with plans to run away with Romeo when she awakens. She says, “Romeo, Romeo, Romeo! Here’s drink. I drink to thee (Act 4, Scene 3).” This act of defiance in the faking of her own death in the name of love shows how Juliet has changed from an innocent girl to a mature woman who makes her own decisions. When being pressured into a marriage, Juliet does not simply follow her mother’s wishes; she acts with her own self-interest in mind. Thus, showing the evolution from innocence to maturity. As Juliet finds herself in a bind, she finds a way to make herself happy, which is a sign of maturity. Juliet does not rely on her mother or nurse’s guidance. She follows her heart and makes her own decisions based on her own analyzation of the situation in which she has found herself. The choreography ends a bit frantically, as if to show that Juliet may have not been in her right mind as she killed herself. The contrast of fast to slow in terms of the steps tries to show that Juliet may have been mature, but love still had a hold of her in the end. I think that my choreography did a good job at illustrating Juliet’s character evolution, as it uses many different dynamics and movements to create a fast-paced version of a story filled with rich detail and doomed love.