Pacific Northwest Ballet Review: Roméo et Juliette
February 11, 2021 | Digital
As Jean-Christophe Maillot does with his Roméo et Juliette, strip away everything you know or have preconceived about this story save the bare necessities.
Close your eyes during the overture and let yourself be carried away by Sergei Prokofiev’s sweeping and lush score as if the first time hearing it.
Appreciate in awe Pacific Northwest Ballet’s superb cast of dancers as if it’s your first time at the ballet.
This is Romeo and Juliet as you’ve never experienced it before.
Roméo et Juliette Trailer
From the moment you watch the 30-second video trailer, it is clear that Roméo et Juliette is not simply “another version” of the traditional ballet that most companies produce. You surely find yourself wondering:
Where are the ornate sets of bustling town squares and elegant ballrooms?
Where are the jewel-toned costumes of Renaissance Verona?
Where are Juliet’s pointe shoes?!
Then you have a look at the production program and scratch your head even more.
Why is Friar Lawrence positioned so high on the cast list?
Where are Lord and Lady Montague?
And what the heck happened to Lord Capulet?!
As a dancer, ballet lover, and classical music fan, Romeo and Juliet in all its components has always been a favorite of mine. The purity of Maillot’s vision has helped me in further identifying why.
His choreographic choices suggest a very human, non-ballet-mime way to the story telling. Accompanied by the stark sets and neutral costume palette, this allows one to truly pay attention to the resounding themes of Roméo et Juliette; all of the potentially distracting fluff is removed granting us the mental space to process the overlapping stories and character development plus the emotional freedom to really empathize.
There is so much I want to say in this review but feel that only watching the entire ballet for yourself does this work of art the justice it deserves. It must be experienced, not read. And there are unique elements that must remain unexpected rather than explained.
I do feel inclined however to make note of that which really stands out to me, one of which touches upon a question pondered earlier.
Friar Lawrence, so magnificently interpreted by Miles Pertl, is our narrator, our oracle, our puppet master, our angst embodied in a single figure. It is he, the first character we focus on when the curtain rises, that sets the tone for the entire ballet and who throughout is the thread that strings the details together.
This magnification of Friar Lawrence as a – one might even argue, the – principal role in Roméo et Juliette is genius. I can’t imagine a more clever implementation.
This is not to take away from our title characters, though. James Yoichi Moore and Noelani Pantastico (who are also the Co-Founders of Seattle Dance Collective) are a beautiful pair whose chemistry radiates even through a laptop screen.
Moore is a dynamic dancer who portrays a multi-faceted Romeo – mischievous alongside his Mercutio and Benvolio (Jonathan Porretta and Benjamin Griffiths), peace-seeking and vengeful in his dichotomous relationship with Tybalt (Seth Orza), and playfully and sensually passionate with his Juliet.
Pantastico’s independent and decisive Juliet reflects an adolescent of the current century, relatable to anyone who has ever felt the strength and determination to act upon their feelings. It is refreshing to witness this divergence from a character who is often read as more timid and, at most, coy.
It feels a bit remiss to not mention the entire cast as they are all wonderful and play such an integral part to this story. But at this point, it would best for you to just enjoy the performance.
Pacific Northwest Ballet’s 2016 capture of Roméo et Juliette is available to stream until February 15th and should not be missed.
Featured Photo of James Yoichi Moore and Noelani Pantastico in Jean-Christophe Maillot’s Roméo et Juliette © AngelaSterlingPhoto.com
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