BWW Review: A Valentine for Romeo And Juliet From New York City Ballet
On the evening of Tuesday, February 13, 2018 at the David H. Koch Theater, New York City Ballet featured Romeo and Juliet - a ballet in two acts. It was based on the play by William Shakespeare, music by Sergei Prokofiev, and choreography by Peter Martins. The scenery was created by Per Kirkeby and the costumes were by Per Kirkeby and Kirsten Lund Nielsen. The orchestra was conducted by Andrew Litton.
The curtain opened to reveal blood red trees and background. This visual was brilliantly conceived by Mr. Kirkeby. It foreshadowed the "flames of lost love and passion". It's opening musical strains evoked a myriad of ominous events yet to occur in the lives of these two star-crossed young people and their families.
The curtains opened to Romeo and his pals, Mercutio and Benvolio, whose dancing included well executed pirouettes. However, they were noisy and heavy footed. In contrast, the steps of the corps proved to be wonderfully light and precise. Tybalt, performed by Principal Dancer Joaquin De Luz, treated the audience to a seasoned, regal, and self-possessed dancer. On the other hand, Romeo, danced by Harrison Coll, could have shown a performance of a more believable youth who saw life as his for the taking. Mr. Coll's interpretation of the choreography made up for the lack of facial expression. Within the dueling scenes, De Luz bested all with his sword play. The others might have been stronger and their actions filled more with the hatred and anger reminiscent of the two feuding families. Tybalt's yellow costume gave the illusion of a killer bee that would defend itself with a dangerous stinger. Corps member Marika Anderson portrayed the Nurse as a loving and yet authoritative caretaker. Despite the youth of the ballerina, she reacted as an older guardian would.
Throughout Act I, the role of Juliet, performed by Principal Dancer Sterling Hyltin, was a very believable ingénue filled with life and carefree happiness. Ms. Hyltin's grand jetes were airborne and her landings were soft and controlled as to be expected. Her arms and steps completed the effect of a well committed ballerina to her craft. The Ballroom scene showcased both the principal dancers and the corps de ballet. Mr. Coll [Romeo] exhibited an enthusiasm and a precision that gained momentum as the ballet progressed. The only glitch came with the cape, which impeded his pirouettes. Due to the gossamer material, it flew forward and briefly stuck to his face, ruining the effect of the choreography. This was totally out of his control. The partnering between Juliet and Paris, danced by Principal Dancer, Russell Janzen, displayed more artistic chemistry than with Romeo. The irony is that Paris is the suitor that she totally rejects in lieu of her love, Romeo.
Principal Dancer Daniel Ulbricht, who portrayed Mercutio, gave us tours, barrel turns, jetes, and fouettes that were outstanding. The audience wholeheartedly agreed by rewarding him with resounding applause. The final scene of Act I was unusually out of place. Traditionally, the Balcony Scene completes the first half of the ballet and is followed by an intermission. I was not the only person confused by this juxtaposition. There were several members of the audience near me who tacitly questioned this approach. Despite this change, the Mandolin Dance of Scene V - A Street In Verona featured several boys who absolutely stole the show. Their enthusiasm and precision of steps, including one boy who did an aerial cartwheel that showed us the next generation of ballet dancers. The audience spontaneously erupted into a raucous display of applause and even shouts of approval for these talented young boy dancers.
The next part of the ballet began with the Chapel Scene where Romeo and Juliet, in the presence of the nurse, are married secretly. Nevertheless, the other scenes followed suit as traditionally expected. The minimalist scener, which was basically a one-story stone type structure followed the Balanchine tradition that espouses "The choreography is the star." The pas de deux in Juliet's bedchamber was smoother than those in the first half. There appeared to be more of a connection between the newlyweds. However, should it have taken half the ballet in order for this to appear? For the epic concluding scene in the tomb, this garnered the most pathos and grief, which was foreshadowed in the opening section of the Act I. It is a daunting task to partner a limp Juliet who appeared not to be alive and Romeo managed it well before he gave up the hope that they would ever share a life together on this earthly plane.
Peter Martin's vision for this version of the Romeo and Juliet ballet succeeded on many levels. Even though there were instances in which I would have preferred a bit more of the traditional choreography and costuming, much of the dancers' talents, as well as, stage lighting was quite refreshing.
Photo Credit: Andrea Mohin