BWW Reviews: Milwaukee Ballet's ROMEO AND JULIET Displays Pink's Dazzling Choreography

BWW Reviews: Milwaukee Ballet's ROMEO AND JULIET Displays Pink's Dazzling Choreography

For never was there a tale of two star crossed lovers more poignant that Michael Pink's adaption of Romeo and Juliet. The Milwaukee Ballet presented the full-length production on Thursday night with dazzling spectacle throughout the three acts to the audience's appreciative delight.

Pink stages his ballets, which he recently discussed with the Huffington Post in an interview, by incorporating strong narratives, or great storytelling that merges with complex choreography. This philosophy creates a very visual and emotional response to the performance so the audience can connect to the dancers, and then the narrative, or meaning, inherent in the story. The ballet becomes a theatre without words and captures the audience in an intense relationship between art, dance, performers and the story front and center on stage.

William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet coalesces this tragic love story with brilliant choreography that displays Pink's theatricality to produce a stellar evening. Over the years Pink has manned the Milwaukee Ballet, beginning his eleventh year in 2013, with his talent for choreography and storytelling, reaching into the emotional hearts of these narratives, that has crescendoed in his full-length ballets, where he is reaching a stunning peak of perfection.

On Thursday night, Davit Hovhannisyan and Luz San Miguel radiate the exuberant innocence and passion of Shakespeare's young lovers. Pink's pairing of the elegant, tall Hovhannisyan and the lithe, petite San Miguel evoke a vulnerability in Juliet. The stark contrast in silhouette allows Juliet more believablilty and sincerity to be apparent in her love for Romeo, as is his complete devotion to Juliet.

Technically, the pair completely marries in thier exquisite lifts and delicate moves. San Miguel, wearing primarily white when the two lovers dance, often a translucent flowing slip or beaded dress, transforms into what appears as a fluid white ribbon Hovhannisyan caresses and wraps around his body and into his arms. Innovative lifts in their pas de deux impress the audience with athleticism and grace, appearing almost effortless. Intricate and lovely choreography on their secret wedding night tell the story far more sensually that words. All the while, San Miguel mesmerizes her audience with her acting and dancing in this ballet, inhabiting the essence of the young teenage girl she actually plays.

Staging and costumes courtesy of the Atlanta Ballet create a rich and opulent backdrop for these two dancers...and the host of other talented Milwaukee ballet members and the corps, who perform will equal excellence. The Masked Ball in the first act stages some lavish numbers, in part due to the ruby red velvet garments overlaid with gold gilt that represent the Capulet family tradition.

Fight scenes originally choreographed by Lee E. Ernst and then refined by Jamie Cheatham marvelously add to the story without overdoing the violence inherent in Shakespeare's play about two warring families unable to resolve their longstanding fued. Alexandre Ferreira's Mercutio and Ryan Martin's Tybalt compete valiantly, together with help of his true friend, Marc Petrocci's Benvolio, although a chance to offer forgiveness and healing is beyond hope until too many young lives are lost.

The Milwaukee Symphony's live ballet orchestra conducted by Andrews Sill places the Romeo and Juliet production into the stratrosphere of dance production. How fortunate for the city to have Sergei Prokofiev's profound musical score played live, which compels an audience to listen while the ballet focuses the audience's every minute of attention on the stage.

Pink finally fuses the classical choreography, technically complex and visually compelling, with contemporary dance to retell these neverending stories that resonate in the 21st century. A career milestone that Milwaukee can only anticipate will move further towards the exceptional with the world premiere of Mirror, Mirror in Spring 2014.

How does the company and Pink follow up such a stunning performance? Over the time of Pink's tenure with the ballet company he has consistently raised the standard of storytelling, classical ballet and choreography by contributing new works to Ballet's repertoire. His productions consistently revised and reworked until Pink can master the story of the clasical dance to his satisfaction, which then elevates his vision, Milwaukee's committment to the arts, and the legacy of the Ballet, indeed the city's world class ballet.

A theatrical renaissance may be underway in Milwaukee, still surfacing throughout numerous performing arts groups thriving in the city. Pink's command of the ballet highlights only one example. To enjoy such a superb dance production one would be hard pressed to uncover another in any theater or performing arts center in the country. Every seat in Uhlein Hall could be filled to support ballet, dance and the arts. Perhaps the Arts, especially when experiencing this beyond magical, magnificent Romeo and Juliet, powerfully remind the audience forgiveness sand redemption will be humanity's only hope.

The Milwaukee Ballet presents Romeo and Juliet one weekend only in Uhlein Hall at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts through November 3. A full season remains through 2014, with the delicious production of The Nutcracker December 14-27 and the World Premiere of Michael Pink's Mirror, Mirror, in May 2014. For further information or tickets, contact 414.902.2103 or visit

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Peggy Sue Dunigan Peggy Sue Dunigan earned a BA in Fine Art, a MA in English and then finished with a Masters of Fine Art in Creative Fiction from Pine Manor College, Massachusetts. Currently she independently writes for multiple publications on the culinary, performance and visual arts or works on her own writing projects while also teaching college English and Research Writing in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Her other creative energy emerges by baking cakes and provincial sweets from vintage recipes so when in the kitchen, at her desk, either drawing or writing, or enjoying evenings at any and all theaters, she strives to provide satisfying memories for the body and soul.