Tara Lee dances Lady Capulet in Atlanta Ballet's "Roméo et Juliette." Choreography by Jean-Christophe Maillot. Photograph by Kim Kenney, courtesy of Atlanta Ballet.

Tara Lee dances Lady Capulet in Atlanta Ballet’s “Roméo et Juliette.” Choreography by Jean-Christophe Maillot. Photograph by Kim Kenney, courtesy of Atlanta Ballet.

But none of these is the reason that this production steals your breath. None of it matters. This year it is not the Atlanta Ballet dancers showing us a story, or dazzling us with their technical abilities. The events are taking place in front of us. It is finally possible to understand the underlying story because the technique is subjugated by the whole. These are just teenagers. Their pranks are real, as are their tenderness and burgeoning maturity. They touch; they tease; they dart away; they return to caress. Chance encounters and hormones rule their decisions. Like all children, they flow in and out of playfulness and seriousness. They are joyful in their youth but also self-conscious in their newly adult bodies. Alessa Rogers and Christian Clark, as Juliette and Roméo, are ecstatic, romantic, and sensuous by turns. We are aghast at how quickly things change for them. We adore their artlessness, applaud their rebellion, and agonize over their deaths. Last year the dancers gave us characters. This year they give us people, and they pierce our hearts.

The performances run through February 14 at the Cobb Energy Center, with pre-show entertainment in the lobby during the hour before the curtain rises. For more information and tickets, visit the Atlanta Ballet website. Take your Valentine, or go alone. Whatever you do, don’t miss it.