From West Side Story to Twilight, Shakespeare’s great romance seems always to find new interpretation, and its tale of forbidden love has been especially enticing to the dance world.
Peter Boal was so mesmerized by Jean-Christophe Maillot’s Roméo et Juliette when he attended its New York debut in 1999, that it became his first full-length acquisition for PNB as artistic director.
Though Maillot’s Roméo et Juliette is firmly grounded in classical ballet, his choreography is imbued with natural and intuitive movement that feels progressive and expands margins of expression. As the famous story of star-crossed lovers unfolds, the dancers’ swimming hands, flying arms, and off-kilter balances speak for racing hearts, reckless impulses, and inner turmoil.
Stage action is brought into high relief by the ballet’s spare and elegant design. Great washes of blue and gold light reflect the magnitude of Prokofiev’s dramatic score, and the piercing elation and lament of young love project like Hollywood close-ups.
Here are the notes about the production that have been reprinted by Pacific Northwest Ballet with the permission of Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo:
Sergei Prokofiev’s glorious ballet score is frequently called his masterpiece. Its thematic melodies—by turns sweetly tender, sweepingly passionate, hotly fierce and chillingly eerie—provide counterpoint and impart eloquent support to the narrative.
In his version of Roméo et Juliette, choreographer Jean-Christophe Maillot has taken formal inspiration from the episodic character of Prokofiev’s classic score, structuring the action in a manner akin to cinematic narrative.
Rather than focusing on themes of political-social opposition between the two feuding clans, this Romeo and Juliet highlights the dualities and ambiguities of adolescence. Torn between contradictory impulses, between tenderness and violence, fear and pride, the lovers are caught in the throes of a tragedy that exemplifies their youth and the extreme emotions and internal conflicts that characterize that time of life—a time of life when destiny, more than at any other moment, seems to escape conscious control, and when the inner turmoil occasioned by passions and ideals can sometimes have disproportionate—even fatal—consequences.
In evoking this fragile and volatile state of being, scenic designer Ernest Pignon-Ernest has created a decor marked by transparency and lightness: a play of simple forms that reveals an underlying complexity of meaning.