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BWW Review: BalletMet's ROMEO AND JULIET Captures Emotion through Dance, Music

Dancers Caitlin Valentine-Ellis and Michael Sayre
Photo Credit: Jennifer Zmuda

The notion of staging a Shakespearean classic and not uttering a single metered phrase might seem like sacrilege, but BalletMet's Romeo and Juliet proves that there's more than one way to tell a story.

Set on a stage draped with rich burgundy fabrics and bathed in the burnt orange glow of an Italian sunset, BalletMet artistic director Edwaard Liang's Romeo and Juliet closed out the Columbus-based company's 2016-17 season with an inspiring interpretation of William Shakespeare's tragic tale of two star-crossed lovers.

For those who do not want to dust off their dog-eared copies of the script from high school literature classes, there's a handy plot summary listed in the program, which describes the forbidden romance between Romeo Montague (Miguel Anaya) and Juliet Capulet (Caitlin Valentine-Ellis). Amid their families' incessant fighting over a long-held grudge, the young protagonists decide to risk it all for a life together -- a decision that comes with deadly consequences.

Live music by the Columbus Symphony Orchestra accompanies the dramatic sword fights and dream-like duets that unfold on stage. The musicians, under the direction of conductor Peter Stafford Wilson, are flawless in their performance of Sergei Prokofiev's score. Even before the curtain lifts to reveal the opening scene, the ensemble's full-bodied sound flows out of the orchestra pit and fills the air with a palpable excitement.

Dancers Caitlin Valentine-Ellis and Michael Sayre
Photo Credit: Jennifer Zmuda

As the ballet's female lead, Valentine-Ellis embodies Juliet's grace and delicacy. With her impressive acting skills, she adds a childlike playfulness and energetic effervescence to her interpretation of the role. Indeed, the gradual disintegration of Juliet's innocence as the ballet progresses makes the story all the more heart-breaking.

In the role of Romeo, Anaya combines his strength as a dancer with a flirtatious boyish charm, as evident in the beautifully staged balcony scene at the end of Act One. Both dancers rise to the challenge of performing one of the most iconic scenes in theatrical history and robbing it of words. Although the flowing stanzas of Romeo's monologue are missing, through their movements alone, the pair conveys a vulnerable naitivitee that perfectly encapsulates the fragility of young love.

Throughout the ballet's three acts, Liang's technically demanding choreography succeeds in impressing the audience. Intense sword fighting, directed by J. Steven White, brings an unbridled ferocity to the stage, while the frolicsome antics of Romeo's friends, Mercutio (Michael Sayre) and Benvolio (Martin Roosaare), lead to the Renaissance-era version of a dance-off among the company's male dancers on several occasions.

Dancers Caitlin Valentine-Ellis and Michael Sayre
Photo Credit: Jennifer Zmuda

A true feast for the senses, Romeo and Juliet is a fitting finale for BalletMet's successful season.

Romeo and Juliet will be performed at the Ohio Theatre on April 29 at 2 and 8 p.m., as well as on April 30 at 2 p.m.

The production, which is divided into three acts with two 15-minute intermissions, has a runtime of approximately two hours and 15 minutes.

For more information about the show and to purchase tickets, visit BalletMet's website.

The 40th anniversary season of BalletMet will begin on October 20 with Parallel Connections, performed in collaboration with Ohio State University Department of Dance and the Wexner Center for the Arts. Other shows scheduled for the 2017-18 season include Front Row: A Collection of Short Ballets, The Nutcracker, Giselle, Tour de Force: A Collection of Short Ballets and Dorothy & The Prince of Oz.

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