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Pacific Northwest Ballet & Jean-Christophe Maillot’s Roméo et Juliette at the New York City Center….

February 21, 2013
 Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancers James Moore and Kaori Nakamura in Jean-Christophe Maillot’s Roméo et Juliette. Photo © Angela Sterling.

Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancers James Moore and Kaori Nakamura in Jean-Christophe Maillot’s Roméo et Juliette. Photo © Angela Sterling.

Do to my untimely arrival which can be explained here …I was only able to see the Second Act of Pacific Northwest Ballet’s production of Jean-Christophe Maillot’s Roméo et Juliette at the New York City Center. It was a shame I did not make the whole performance…

I am indeed disappointed that I missed the whole of Jean-Christophe Maillot’s unique rendering of the classic tale Roméo et Juliette. Mr. Maillot’s vision was more contemporary than classical in approach. Ernest Pignon-Ernest added to this approach with a minimalist set of stationary walls of white in the background and curved walls of white that could be moved as the plot progressed. Juliet’s balcony was more of a ramp than a balcony but it purpose was clear none the same.

Ballet with live music, ah, as it should be…..Emil du Cou conducted the Pacific Northwest Orchestra during the Pacific Northwest Ballet’s too short stay at the New York City Center with perfection. You did not just listen to the music but instead you absorbed it, the notes weaving though the dancers just as the dancer wove through the music.

There were moments when I felt the work was treated more as a Greek tragedy in its formation. The main characters would be in the front with the chorus behind shadowing their actions, sometimes being more than characters for plot delivery but archetypes of duality, death and grief.

 Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancers James Moore and Kaori Nakamura in Jean-Christophe Maillot’s Roméo et Juliette. Photo © Angela Sterling.

Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancers James Moore and Kaori Nakamura in Jean-Christophe Maillot’s Roméo et Juliette. Photo © Angela Sterling.

Mr. Maillot utilizes his artistic licenses liberally and for the most part to good effect. Rather than focusing on the themes of political-social opposition between the two feuding clans, this Roméo et Juliette highlights the dualities and ambiguities of adolescence. Incorporating the manner of cinematic narrative we see a story within the story..

The story of such drastic animosity between two families of influence may seem a stretch in today’s modern world. But, for Renaissance Italy it was more of a common occurrence and often a blood sport if one is to read the histories of the Medici family of Milan and the Farrara family of Venice. Each sees the other as a threat to their safety and their holdings and murder or sudden death by mysterious circumstances (poison…) was a fairly common occurrence.

The use of poison that Shakespeare uses so readily was a reality for the age in which Romeo and Juliet is set, the early 1300’s. Death by poison in Italy was so common that Europeans referred to a rival’s mysterious death as being caused by the “Italian illness”.

William Lin-Yee’s portrayal of Friar Lawrence was both complex yet subtle. Jean-Christophe Maillot’s uses Friar Lawrence as the instigator who plans Juliet’s mock suicide. Mr. Lin-Yee’s portrayed Friar Lawrence as a character lost in a plan of his own making; he was sympathetic to the lover’s plight but powerless in the inevitability once the plan had gone astray. His was a Friar Lawrence that was dark and pessimistic in nature and at times more than a little creepy

Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancers James Moore and Kaori Nakamura in Jean-Christophe Maillot’s Roméo et Juliette. Photo © Angela Sterling

Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancers James Moore and Kaori Nakamura in Jean-Christophe Maillot’s Roméo et Juliette. Photo © Angela Sterling

Friar Lawrence was always accompanied by two Acolytes, whose roles in the ballet I did not fully grasp. The two Acolytes supposedly symbolized two states of the same being, that which is carried within and that which is then acted upon. The roles were danced by Andrew Bartee and Jerome Tisserand and they were both a joy to see dance, but as a tool within the plot I failed to see the clarity of the two characters. But again, Mr. Maillot’s usage of imagery and archetype can be applied here. In fairness if I had seen the ballet from the beginning it may have been made clearer. The reference to the Trinity I could not help but notice, Romeo and Juliet took place in an age where Catholicism was more than religious expression but rather fundamental in the make up to one’s identity.

Roméo, oh Roméo, wherefore are thou Roméo….That would by James Moore. Mr. Moore was seemingly demure in stature but nobody seemed to have informed him of that fact for it certainly did not affect his dancing. His movements were fluid; his dancing was expressive and emotionally charged. His love and devotion for Juliet clear, for each touch he gave her body seemed a caress. He was the perfect Roméo, handsome and tender of heart, the perfect romantic…someone I believe that could fall in love at first glance.

Kaori Nakamura as Juliette was light and playful but lacked the depth of emotion needed at times for such a dramatic role. After waking and finding Romeo dead I did not feel the anguish or pain of loss I have seen from other Juliet’s through the years. As for her dancing that in itself was superb, faultless in technique and always exhibiting a beautiful clear line.

Ezra Thomson as Mercutio was the perfect prankster, his character stole his way into our hearts and the stage was brighter and lively when he was present. When Tybalt, portrayed by Batkhurel Bold, killed Mercutio I found myself rather angry with Mr. Bold. Mr. Bold’s Tybalt exuded a certain ruthlessness, a coldness of heart. Again we are evidenced of Mr. Maillot’s use of duality, tender versus ruthless, light again battling darkness.

 Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancers James Moore and Kaori Nakamura in Jean-Christophe Maillot’s Roméo et Juliette. Photo © Angela Sterling.

Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancers James Moore and Kaori Nakamura in Jean-Christophe Maillot’s Roméo et Juliette. Photo © Angela Sterling.

Lady Capulet, danced by Lindsi Dec was a much felt figure of grief. She was always in billowy black that flowed around her as she danced. Ms. Dec’s choreography seemed more angular while the rest of Mr. Maillot’s choreography seemed to flow and breathe from one movement to the next; this gave her character an added dimension. For through her angular movement we see a woman restrained by her circumstance, grief she wears as her hallmark thus incorporating it into her identity.

Mr. Maillot’s Lady Capulet and in the third act Juliet, both danced with bare feet. This gave the work an unexpected sense of earthiness. Somehow, the dichotomy of being without shoes or dancing with bare feet better expressed and emphasized the grief of both women. The sense of grief seemed more poignant with the humility of being barefooted, it simply was better expressed.

So, it is with great regret and apologies to the Pacific Northwest Ballet for my unfortunate lateness. But, it was one of those things that was out of my control…but what I did see….I greatly enjoyed….

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