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Susan Weinrebe
American Ballet Theater
Performance Reviews
Civic Opera House
American Ballet Theatre
United States
Chicago, IL

American Ballet Theatre - Romeo And Juliet - Ballet in Three Acts

by Susan Weinrebe
April 4, 2007
Civic Opera House
20 N. Wacker Drive
Chicago, IL 60606

Featured Dance Company:

American Ballet Theatre
American Ballet Theatre (office)
890 Broadway
New York, NY 10003

American Ballet Theatre
Kevin McKenzie, Artistic Director
Rachel S. Moore, Executive Director
Victor Barbee, Associate Artistic Director
Kirk Peterson, Artistic Director, ABT Studio Company
Ballet Masters: Wes Chapman, Susan Jones, Irina Kolpakova,
Clinton Luckett, Georgina Parkinson
Ormsby Wilkins, Music Director
Charles Barker, Principal Conductor,
Ali and Monica Wambold, Endowed Gift
Samara Harand, Public Relations, The Silverman Group, Inc.

March 22, 2007
Romeo And Juliet (1965) Choreography by Sir Kenneth Macmillan, Assistance in the original staging for American Ballet Theatre by Monica Parker, Staged by Julie Lincoln, Music by Sergei Prokofiev, Scenery and costumes by Nicholas Georgiadis, Lighting by Thomas Skelton, Performed by Angel Corella, Xiomara Reyes, Craig Salstein, Sascha Radetsky, Jared Matthews, Cory Stearns, Victor Barbee, Veronika Part, Wes Chapman, Maria Bystrova, Susan Jones, Jennifer Alexander, Roman Zhurbin, Carmen Corella, Melissa Thomas, Sasha Dmochowski and the Company

Though the title of the ABT's full-length ballet is Romeo And Juliet, it is really Juliet's story. Without the poetry and verbal jousting comprising much of Romeo's part in an acted version, the performance must focus on behaviors which can be translated into dance. Thus, additional emphasis is placed on the lovers and especially on Juliet's swift emotional evolution

As ABT's lush production opens, lavishly designed sets establish place and status of the citizens of Verona, whether in the marketplace where young men stride about looking for mischief, or in the grand palace ballroom of the Capulets. Broadly extending across the stage, a multileveled staircase affords a sweep of detail that creates an impression of multitudes going about their business or parading their finery at the dance. Equally, the Capulet portcullis and stone walls lend weight to the importance of the family within.

The traffic of the stage begins with dancers in earth-toned costumes engaged in workaday business. Accordingly, because they are common folk, their clothing indicates their low standing; the women wear dance shoes instead of pointe slippers.

When Angel Corella and his mates entered, encumbered as they were with fencing swords, I wondered how they would manage grand jetés and arabesques. But there was nothing to fear because before too long the brawl began, swords were drawn, and the fight choreography took over. Metal struck metal and the thrusts and parries were so skillfully organized that although there was a rhythm and pattern to the dueling, it did not look programmed. A throng of swordsmen and onlookers masterfully deployed to fill the stage with action and interest, never obscuring the details of ongoing fights.

Then, in a scene vaguely reminiscent of the Rembrandt painting, Nightwatch, the Prince, with guards brandishing pikes and flourishing banners, commanded the remaining inches of stage. Whether it was meant to lighten the mood or to demonstrate the degree of carnage, bodies of the fallen were stacked one atop the other making me hope the bottom man had taken an extra deep breath before the pileup.

Each scene of the ballet begs to be described in detail. Whether for the majesty of the costumes or elements of the sets, designed to further the plot, by conveying spectacle or to place the focus on the dancers, Romeo and Juliet was moment for moment as much about crafting a rounded sensory portrait through production as it was about dance.

As in the play, the meaty roles of Nurse and Mercutio require dancers who are able to convey humor and irony, and Susan Jones and Craig Salstein performed their parts with skillful characterization. The only over the top moment was Lady Capulet's mourning over Tybalt's body. Following this scene, the focus shifted exclusively to the lovers.

It would be hard to imagine a more perfectly paired Romeo and Juliet than Angel Corella and Xiomara Reyes. They are fresh-faced, young looking dancers, and their seeming slightness belies the strength that is required in their partnership. Beyond their physicality, the chemistry between this darling couple was palpable, and it showed in partnering that flowed like hot melted butter.

One of the difficulties inherent in Reyes' role is that despite her sylph-like figure, she is still a woman who must portray a pre-teenage girl. Engaging choreography that had her flitting around the stage as she and the Nurse teased, created the impression of immaturity, but succeeded because of the nuances Ms. Reyes wove into her steps. Then, at the dance, the ponderous Prokofiev score, formal solemnity, and exaggerated weighty stature of all the other dancers emphasized the counterpoint of her relative lightness of being.

Mr. Corella dances so seamlessly that I've come to expect the difficult to look easy when he performs. One particularly stellar moment of his appearance was the ease with which he circumnavigated the stage holding Ms. Reyes overhead. I had seen him dancing the pas de deux in Le Corsaire a year earlier, and in that performance he ran across the expanse carrying his partner aloft! This trust, implicit in his skilled partnering, showed over and over as in the finale of the balcony scene, when Ms. Reyes ran to her Romeo only to turn at the last possible second and catapult herself backwards into his waiting arms.

With each tragic turn of events, Ms. Reyes advanced the emotional evolution of her character. She danced with Paris as though sleepwalking or drugged and in the moment of her fateful decision to drink the sleeping potion, she matured far beyond the innocent child she had been at first appearance. The transformation was made in one long remarkable moment as she sat poised on the edge of her bed with the stillness of her body sufficing to convey the turning point in her mind.

The most remarkable scene in the ballet was, of course, the death scene in the Capulet crypt. Discovering Juliet, seemingly lifeless, laid out on a steeply raked bier, Corella danced what is arguably the most poignant and grotesque grand pas de deux in classical ballet. Lifting Reyes' body from its resting place, he tried to make her respond by dancing with her. The skill and art combined to appear completely limp while assisting one's male partner in lifts, carries, turns and various steps, without appearing to do so, requires consummate skill and trust which this luscious pair had in abundance.

As if that weren't enough, after Juliet awakened and stabbed herself, she was on the opposite side of the bier from her Romeo. Everyone has seen hokey death scenes in plays and in this final instant of the ballet, Reyes had to nail the tragedy or lose the moment. With the utmost of subtle movements that looked as though they were her last, she inched across the slab, once again to turn at the final instant and die bent over backwards, reaching towards Corella.

After seeing the ABT's Romeo and Juliet danced by Xiomara Reyes and Angel Corella, it's hard to imagine a future production with anyone who could equal their artistry.
Angel Corella as Romeo

Angel Corella as Romeo

Photo © & courtesy of MIRA

Xiomara Reyes as Juliet and Angel Corella as Romeo

Xiomara Reyes as Juliet and Angel Corella as Romeo

Photo © & courtesy of Rosalie O'Connor

Xiomara Reyes as Juliet and Angel Corella as Romeo

Xiomara Reyes as Juliet and Angel Corella as Romeo

Photo © & courtesy of Rosalie O'Connor

Xiomara Reyes as Juliet and Angel Corella as Romeo

Xiomara Reyes as Juliet and Angel Corella as Romeo

Photo © & courtesy of Rosalie O'Connor

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