Attending a performance of Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet, I expect nothing less then pure ballet, based on the five positions that produce the most elegant graceful lines and emphatically sticks to the libretto. I do not wish to be challenged intellectually by an avant-garde revision of Shakespeare’s timeless tale. Thankfully Ben Stevenson is a choreographer who has proven himself time and again an unapologetic classicist and idealist of the ballet theater. A great ballet performance is found in the interaction between the choreographer, the dancers and the public. Tonight, his company of technically proficient, classically trained artists did not fail to delight, and entertain. Not a single ego or editorial on the stage. Instead, diligent artists allowing the choreography and Shakespeare’s legendary love story to speak for itself.
Ben Stevenson’s Romeo and Juliet was a richly textured ballet with intense emotions and complex choreography. It was a well-crafted fusion of both classical and neo-classical design aesthetic. There were intricate solos as well as large synchronized groups of duets weaving in and out of linear formations, in very much the same manner master choreographer, Marius Petipa, moved dancers around the stage.
The individual performances were technically strong and artistically coherent. Romeo, Mercutio and Benvolio (Lucas Priolo, Alexander Kotelenets and Eddy Tvar) were outstanding as a trio tonight. Together they executed each passage with a precision that defined their entire performance. Leaning into their steps with perfect conviction, so articulate in the use of their legs, never wobbling for an instant. The dancers of the corps de ballet were marvelous. They were clean, polished and professional. Even during the few instances that teetered on unnecessary embellishment, (the trio of harlots, for instance), there was enough clean and impressive technical dancing to please ballet fans.
In 2008, financial difficulties forced the Texas Ballet Theater to cut live orchestras from their performances. While a live orchestra always enriches a performance, the sound engineering of the Winspear allowed me to focus on the live dancers. The set and costume designs by David Walker were tasteful and well matched. A bit of a distraction, the large, center stage statue in the marketplace scenes wobbled from the slightest nudge of a passing dancer. Certainly not as well planted as the dancers.
This British ex-patriot’s signature lift-laden pas de duexs are breathtaking. The two lead dancers, Carolyn Judson and Eddy Tovar had an almost flawless first act. That was until the much anticipated balcony scene. Minutes after they declared their love to one another, they literally fell over each other. As the audience gasped, the reality of live theater sinking in, Romeo and Juliet quickly peeled themselves off the floor and continued dancing as if nothing happened. Suddenly, they stood there, in the still quiet of the stage, gazing into each other’s eyes, their chests rising and descending, until her breath was indistinguishable from his. There was something unexplainable between them, something magical. Even if someone was barely interested in the art of movement he or she could feel it unconsciously. It was in this moment the interaction between choreographer, dancers, and public solidified.
Photo courtesy of the Texas Ballet Theater