Nothing Short of Brilliant

Review of Roméo et Juliette at Pacific Northwest Ballet by Atanis K.

Take a brilliant Ukrainian composer, an inspired French ballet choreographer, and the most famous love story ever written, combine them with the dancing talent of the Pacific Northwest Ballet’s performers, and you get the sublime, two-and-a-half hour production known as Roméo et Juliette. Even if you are not familiar with Shakespeare’s play, you can still relate to and enjoy this production about the conflicting emotions of love and adolescence. Lucien Postlewaite and Carla Körbes portray their characters with such passion that it is difficult not to find yourself believing they are really the star-crossed lovers the Bard wrote. In fact, the only thing I found difficult to believe was that this is Ms. Körbes’ first time in the role.

Lucien Postlewaite and Carla Körbes in Jean-Christophe Maillot’s Roméo et Juliette. Photo © Angela Sterling.

Brilliant as well are Jonathan Porretta’s depiction of Mercutio and Batkhurel Bold’s depiction of Tybalt. Mr. Porretta is every bit as mercurial as I expected his character should be, and Mr. Bold’s whole demeanor right down to his movement, his stance, and his facial features screams “villain.” Olivier Wevers also plays the part of Friar Laurence outstandingly, personifying the manipulative attributes that Jean-Christophe Maillot envisioned the character. While every dancer performed with outstanding technique and personality, it is these three that stand out to me above the rest.

Batkhurel Bold (as Tybalt) and Jonathan Porretta (as Mercutio) in Jean-Christophe Maillot’s Roméo et Juliette. Photo © Angela Sterling.

Though the dancers are the face of the ballet that everyone sees, just as integral are the unseen artists that make the performance happen. Ernest Pignon-Ernest has created a set that is simple, elegant and functional. The set consists of geometric walls that can move across the floor with textures projected upon them. It is the right balance of simplicity and sophistication to provide a sense location without distracting from the performers. Jérôme Kaplan, the costume designer, does an excellent job in crafting the appearances of the characters, and it is in no small part due to him that their personalities are so easy to see. Tybalt’s black costume implies the darkness and anger within character, just as Romeo’s and Juliet’s light costumes reflect the lovers’ hearts and emotions and Friar Laurence’s costume symbolizes his power and, for the most part, control over the situation.

This added theme of control and the presence of the acolytes are a digression from the original play’s vision that lends itself nicely to the production. To say Maillot’s work is unique and creative would be as gross an understatement as saying Shakespeare is “a good writer.” The choreography is nothing short of brilliant, and is easily some of the best I have ever seen. Maillot throws in humor as appropriately entertaining as the clever puns lost in the transition from play to dance. Every scene is carefully planned out for maximum impact: Props are utilized to the fullest rather than shown once then discarded. In scenes with many dancers, emphasis is given to the main characters when necessary and divided among everyone when a more chaotic atmosphere is desired. In scenes with fewer dancers, Maillot adds lots of movement in order to use the whole stage effectively. This ballet is one of the most beautiful performances I have ever watched, and whether you know what an arabesque is or not, you are sure to enjoy this production as much as I did.

- Atanas K
September 24th, 2009

Roméo et Juliette
Pacific Northwest Ballet
Through October 4th

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