There's a stunning moment in the Boston Ballet's new ''Romeo and Juliet'' that could just as easily be boring. As the Capulets' ballroom empties out, Romeo and Juliet, having just fallen in love, linger in opposite corners, waiting to be alone. But as Juliet's friends twirl away and Romeo's jostle off, the black-clad figure of Tybalt stalks the perimeter of the room, eclipsing our view of the festivities. He glares first at Romeo, then at Juliet, and he anchors our attention. We see three layers of Shakespeare's tragedy at once: the social whirl of Verona, the lovers, and a hunger for revenge that keeps the war on between the Capulets and Montagues.
A brilliant design, but it works only because Christopher Aponte, as Tybalt, saunters around the stage with the menace of a heat-seeking missile. Later, when Devon Carney as Romeo moves across the stage, he looks like a piece of mechanized scenery.
It's not enough to dance well in this production. Choreographer Choo San Goh demands intensity in small movements. Bounding crowd scenes and giddy teen-age love duets recede, and there's just someone walking or pointing. It's either a dramatic pause or a dead stop, depending on how the dancer fills in the blanks.
The balcony scene is an interlude of pure dance. Romance breaks out and Romeo and Juliet earn their title billing. Dierdre Myles, as Juliet, does flickering little steps backward on pointe with Romeo at her side, and it looks like a long free-fall in a dream.
''Romeo and Juliet'' (at the Wang Center through Sunday) looks like a turning point for the Boston Ballet. It's a tribute to E. Virginia Williams, who passed on recently. She founded the company 20 years ago and, with ballet-mistress insistence, brought some of the dancers from their first plies to their confident poise on a big stage. - Maggie Lewis