Romeo and Juliet can either be breathtakingly beautiful or overly melodramatic. However, as presented by the National Ballet of Canada at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles Sunday, Romeo and Juliet was the beautifully enacted tale of teen lovers dealing with controlling parents and social norms with brilliant pas de deux work, fun character dancing and a fresh look at parts of the story.
The production staged by choreographer Alexei Ratmansky features Verona as a vibrant village. The production is clearly not a remake of previous renditions of the ballet. Yes, the story – and ending – are basically the same, and there is the magisterial and beautiful Sergei Prokofiev score. However, Ratmansky clearly went back to Shakespeare’s story for inspiration to develop a visually attractive, full-bodied rendition in three acts.
The ballet is a well-balanced mix of large crowd scenes, including well-orchestrated sword battles, and more intimate moments. There were several crowd numbers with intricate choreography that fills the stage. There were also several smaller, well-realized scenes that demonstrated Ratmansky’s desire to present the full story with some different touches.
Two scenes that come to mind as fresh were when the star-crossed lovers first meet in the breathtaking ballroom scenes and when Friar Lawrence explains the potion to Juliet. In the ballroom, Romeo and Juliet are carried aloft by their cliques to float side by side with more romance than seen when couples are lifted on chairs at weddings. In spite of being a large ensemble scene, the duo commands all attention. Conversely, when the Friar discussed the potion with Juliet, there is a lovely dream sequence where Juliet envisions her parents and Paris mourning her death and then Romeo arriving to bring her to life.
Romeo and his friends have intricate dance and fight moves that require great control and technique, particularly to look effortless with the quick darting moves. First soloist Nauya Ebe was effective as Romeo, gamely playing with his friends, smitten with Juliet, wielding a sword and displaying an easy technique that seemed effortless and woven into the plot, versus displaying showy moves. The character dance roles were fun and added levity. Mercutio is witty, cheeky and loyal, contributing lighter moments. Tybalt, Benvolio and Paris are also standout roles; it is a rarity for a ballet to have so many solid males parts.
On Sunday, principal ballerina Sonia Rodriguez was wonderful as Juliet. She was radiant in the ballroom when meeting her future lover, effectively displayed a teen temperament in arguing with her parents, romantic in the balcony scene and distraught in her final moments. Her dancing was light and effortless.
The set design by Richard Hudson includes crowd scenes in front of a Renaissance palace, a richly appointed Capulet house from ballroom to feast to Juliet’s bedroom. What’s great is the set never looks cluttered but really communicates the different settings.
The costumes were also remarkable. The townsfolk are dressed simply and colorfully. The Capulets and Montagues demonstrate their wealth with individualized costumes in richer fabrics and elaborate headdresses.
The 60-year-old National Ballet of Canada continues to show its depth and desire to be a major world-renowned dance company with this production and their fabulous Alice in Wonderland. Judging by their latest visit to Los Angeles and the brilliant Romeo and Juliet presented, the Canadians are clearly cementing a solid reputation as one of the top 10 ballet companies in the world.
Opinion By Dyanne Weiss
July 13, 2014 Performance at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Los Angeles