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National Ballet of Canada: Ratmansky's "Romeo and Juliet"
Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts
November 16–27, 2011
Performances reviewed: Nov. 26, matinee & evening
If you go to this new Romeo and Juliet expecting to see your favorite moments, like The First Kiss, or Lady Capulet going crazy over Tybalt’s death, you won’t find them. There’s no big swooping cape for Romeo, and no skimming down the balcony stairs for Juliet. Instead Ratmansky spreads the drama throughout the ballet, spinning an even more epic tale than usual. In his eyes—and in his dance-making hands—the ballet is not only about the love-struck teenagers, but also about the long lasting, less-than-ideal, fraught-but-forgiving love between Lady and Lord Capulet.
Ratmansky gives each character a through line. From our first sighting of Romeo, he’s a dreamer. With his head in a book, he’s inspired by what he reads there (presumably love poems). As he looks up from its pages, you know he’s thinking lofty thoughts.
The Friar has a story too. At first he does not want to marry the two lovebirds from feuding families—he gestures with knuckles against knuckles. But then his fists soften, and he shows how he thinks the warring factions could be healed through this union. He also has more interaction with both Romeo and Juliet, and in the final scene, he beats his chest for his part in the tragedy.
The greatest difference in the plot is that in the crypt scene, Romeo gulps down some poison when he sees the lifeless Juliet in the morgue. She awakens just in time to see the life draining out of him. As she regains her strength, he loses his. It’s quite powerful.
Ratmansky’s sure choreographic touch comes through in myriad ways. At the ball, after Romeo and Juliet have met, Paris lifts her because after all, he’s her official date. At the same time, Mercutio and Benvolio lift Romeo, so the two soon-to-be lovers float along side by side in the air. A surprising, magical moment.
Another nice touch is that in the balcony pas de deux, wedged into the sweeping and swooning lifts, Ratmansky includes some unison glides and port de bras. Those steps suggest that the two are heading in the same direction; they’re on the same wave length.
For me, one of the choreographic weakness came during the Capulet-led dance at the ball. In the MacMillan and Cranko versions, the family, drenched in the trappings of their own power, step downstage in a flank to the hauntingly heavy music. The ballroom becomes a fortress of old money; the purpose of the dance is to consolidate power in the family. But Ratmansky has choreographed a mock sword fight to this magnificent music instead. (I’m told that Prokofiev’s score calls this scene the “dance of the knights.”) It has become a more obvious display of power, an ode to the sword, instead of the insidious, violence-just-under-the-surface feeling of the older versions. Ratmansky’s diagonal swordplay looked light, flimsy compared to the menacing quality of the music.
Another iffy spot was in the Friar’s cell. Traditionally the simplicity of this setting serves as a moral oasis, set off from profane society. But Ratmansky has the two lovers reprising a bit of their pas de deux, crowding the friar’s small room with dance steps.
The sets by Richard Hudson neither take us back to the Renaissance nor force us into the present day (like Peter Martins’ version with its in-your-face-modern designs by Per Kirkeby). Some of Hudson’s costumes are slightly cartoonish—different colored legs for the village guys, big jumpers for the girls. They are based on 15th-century frescoes, but they looked just a tad too Oklahoma! to me. Jennifer Tipton’s sensitive lighting turned the sky blood red after the killings of Mercutio and Tybalt.
The first cast was so good, and the story so well told, that my knees were shaking after the matinee. Guillaume Côté was a romantic, dreamy Romeo, and Elena Lobsanova an innocent, lovely, vulnerable Juliet. Côté’s chest would swell in his solos, and the two seemed to breathe together as they soared and melted in the balcony pas de deux. In the last scene Lobsanova joyously took Côté by the hand to run out of the crypt—but then he suddenly staggered to the ground. It caught at your heart.
Greta Hodgkinson, who was second cast as Juliet, is a sharper, more authoritative dancer than Lobsanova. Always clear and full out, she seemed more worried than hopelessly in love. And when she stabbed herself, she did not exactly plunge the knife into her heart. Rather it was a cautious act. But earlier, when she was forced to dance with Paris, her eyes burned bright with resentment, making me want to see her mad scene in Giselle. Her Romeo, Aleksandar Antonijevic, was fine but a bit bland.
In this version the feverish desire of the young lovers is contrasted to the distant feeling between Juliet’s parents. The older couple’s relationship is poisoned by patriarchy and frozen by formality, but a deep patience toward each other has made their life together possible. Lord Capulet tries to soothe her as she grieves for Tybalt—which could not have been a fun thing for him to witness. At the end, over the grim discovery of Romeo and Juliet dead in each other’s arms, Lord Capulet kneels to ask for his Lady’s forgiveness. He takes the blame and she has the power to forgive. As the lights dim, she lays a hand on his bowed head. It’s as good as anything Romeo read in that little book of love poems.
Photos by Bruce Zinger, courtesy NBC. Guillaume Côté as Romeo, Elena Lobsanova as Juliet, Etienne Lavigne as Lord Capulet, and Joanna Ivey as Lady Capulet in Alexei Ratmansky's Romeo and Juliet.
New York City–based dancers know Gibney. It's a performance venue, a dance company, a rehearsal space, an internship possibility—a Rubik's Cube of resources bundled into two sites at 280 and 890 Broadway. And in March of this year, Gibney (having officially dropped "Dance" from its name) announced a major expansion of its space and programming; it now operates a total of 52,000 square feet, 23 studios and five performance spaces across the two locations.
Six of those studios and one performance space are brand-new at the 280 Broadway location, along with several programs. EMERGE will commission new works by emerging choreographic voices for the resident Gibney Dance Company each year; Making Space+ is an extension of Gibney's Making Space commissioning and presenting program, focused on early-career artists. For the next three years, the Joyce Theater Foundation's artist residency programs will be run out of one of the new Gibney studios, helping to fill the gap left by the closing of the Joyce's DANY Studios in 2016.
What is the right flooring system for us?
So many choices, companies, claims, endorsements, and recommendations to consider. The more you look, the more confusing it gets. Here is what you need to do. Here is what you need to know to get the flooring system suited to your needs.
"I'm sorry, but I just can't possibly give you the amount of money you're asking for."
My heart sinks at my director's final response to my salary proposal. She insists it's not me or my work, there is just no money in the budget. My disappointment grows when handed the calendar for Grand Rapids Ballet's next season with five fewer weeks of work.
"It just...always looks better in my head."
While that might not be something any of us would want to hear from a choreographer, it's a brilliant introduction to "Off Kilter" and the odd, insecure character at its center, Milton Frank. The ballet mockumentary (think "The Office" or "Parks and Recreation," but with pointe shoes) follows Frank (dancer-turned-filmmaker Alejandro Alvarez Cadilla) as he comes back to the studio to try his hand at choreographing for the first time since a plagiarism scandal derailed his fledgling career back in the '90s.
We've been pretty excited about the series for a while, and now the wait is finally over. The first episode of the show, "The Denial," went live earlier today, and it's every bit as awkward, hilarious and relatable as we hoped.
Dancers crossing over into the fitness realm may be increasingly popular, but it was never part of French-born Julie Granger's plan. Though Granger grew up a serious ballet student, taking yoga classes on the side eventually led to a whole new career. Creating her own rules along the way, Granger shares how combining the skills she learned in ballet with certifications in yoga, barre and personal training allowed her to become her own boss (and a rising fitness influencer).
Travis Wall draws inspiration from dancers Tate McCrae, Timmy Blankenship and more.
One often-overlooked relationship that exists in dance is the relationship between choreographer and muse. Recently two-time Emmy Award Winner Travis Wall opened up about his experience working with dancers he considers to be his muses.
"My muses in choreography have evolved over the years," says Wall. "When I'm creating on Shaping Sound, our company members, my friends, are my muses. But at this current stage of my career, I'm definitely inspired by new, fresh talent."
Wall adds, "I'm so inspired by this new generation of dancers. Their teachers have done such incredible jobs, and I've seen these kids grown up. For many of them, I've had a hand in their exposure to choreography."
José Greco popularized Spanish dance in 1950s and '60s America through his work onstage and on screen. Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Theater's American Spanish Dance & Music Festival is honoring the icon in recognition of what would have been his 100th birthday. As part of the tribute, Greco's three dancing children are reuniting to perform together for the first time since their father's death in 2000. Also on the program is the premiere of contemporary flamenco choreographer Carlos Rodriguez's Mar de Fuego (Sea of Fire). June 15–17, North Shore Center for the Performing Arts. ensembleespanol.org.
Dance Theatre of Harlem dancers Christopher McDaniel and Crystal Serrano were working on Nacho Duato's Coming Together in rehearsal when McDaniel's foot hit a slippery spot on the marley. As they attempted a swinging lift, both dancers went tumbling, injuring Serrano as they fell. She ended up being out for a week with a badly bruised knee.
"I immediately felt, This is my fault," says McDaniel. "I broke my friend."
What's on the minds of college students today?
I recently had the honor of adjudicating at the American College Dance Association's National College Dance Festival, along with choreographer Dana Tai Soon Burgess and former National Endowment for the Arts dance specialist Douglas C. Sonntag. We chose three winners—one for Outstanding Choreography and two for Outstanding Performance—from 30 pieces representing schools throughout the country. It was a great opportunity to see what college dance students are up to—from the issues they care about to the kinds movement they're interested in exploring.
Here were the biggest trends and takeaways:
It's summer festival season! If you're feeling overwhelmed by the dizzying array of offerings, never fear: We've combed through the usual suspects to highlight the shows we most want to catch.
Subscription box services have quickly gained a dedicated following among the fashion and fitness set. And while we'd never say no to a box with new jewelry or workout wear to try, we've been waiting for the subscription model to make its way to the dance world.
Enter barre + bag, a new service that sends a curated set of items to your door each season. Created by Faye Morrow Bell and her daughter Tyler, a student in the pre-professional ballet program at University of North Carolina School of the Arts, this just-launched service offers dance, lifestyle and wellness finds in four themed bags each year: Spring Performance, Summer Study, Back-to-Studio and Nutcracker. Since all the products are specifically made for dancers, everything barre + bag sends you is something you'll actually use, (Plus, it all comes in a bag instead of a box—because what dancer can ever have enough bags?).
barre + bag's Summer Collection
Today, American Ballet Theatre announced a new initiative to foster the development of choreography by company members and freelance dancemakers. Aptly titled ABT Incubator, the program, directed by principal David Hallberg, will give selected choreographers the opportunity to spend two weeks workshopping new dances.
"It has always been my vision to establish a process-oriented hub to explore the directions ballet can forge now and in the future," said Hallberg in a press release from the company. Interested? Here's how you can apply to participate.
Back in January, Chase Johnsey grabbed headlines when he resigned from Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, where his performances had garnered critical acclaim for over a decade, alleging a culture of harassment and discrimination. (An independent investigation launched by the company did not substantiate any legal claims.) Johnsey, who identifies as genderqueer, later told us that he feared his dance career was at an end—where else, as a ballet dancer, would he be allowed to perform traditionally female roles?
But the story didn't end there. After a surprise offer from Tamara Rojo, artistic director of English National Ballet, Johnsey has found a temporary artistic home with the company, joining as a guest at the rank of first artist for its run of The Sleeping Beauty, which continues this week. After weeks of working and rehearsing with the company, last week Johnsey quietly marked a new milestone: He performed with ENB's corps de ballet as one of the ladies in the prince's court.