THE "STAR CROSSED LOVERS," Romeo and Juliet, are at it again, declaring their mutual passion in youthful and poetic ways. This time, though, the familiar words have been replaced by steps.

Sir Kenneth MacMillan's "Romeo and Juliet," currently being performed by the American Ballet Theater at the Kennedy Center Opera House, conjures up the tempestuous realm of the Montagues and Capulets in ardently theatrical terms. Originally created for London's Royal Ballet in 1965, this full-length ballet has been given a new production. Set to the celebrated Prokofiev score, with lavish sets and costumes by Nicholas Georgiadis, this is a splendid addition to ABT's rich cache of classical, evening-length works.

This is certainly not the first time that Shakespeare's play has been interpreted in movement. In this century alone, a host of international choreographers -- including Frederick Ashton, Antony Tudor, Mikhail Lavrovsky -- have created their own versions of the tragic tale. Just last month, the Joffrey Ballet unveiled a highly successful production of John Cranko's "Romeo."

Though MacMillan's interpretation doesn't head off in any groundbreaking direction, his grasp of character motivation, his ability to translate that motivation into sweeping emotion-laden dancing, and the stars who bring those characters to life make this particular "Romeo and Juliet" something special. ROMEO AND JULIET -- American Ballet Theater. Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m., Sunday at 1:30 and 7:30 p.m., Kennedy Center Opera House.