Entertainment » Theatre

Romeo and Juliet (Boston Ballet)

by Sue Katz
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Monday Mar 19, 2018
Romeo and Juliet (Boston Ballet)

If I could only choose two words to describe Boston Ballet's "Romeo and Juliet," continuing at the Opera House until April 8, 2018, it would be decorative and dramatic. The impact of these two descriptors cannot be unraveled.

Act I opens in the street market of Verona where a mini riot between the rival houses of the Capulets and the Montagues breaks out, complete with a fruit fight. We, the audience, distinguish the families one from the other because the Capulets dress in red and the Montagues in blue. Throughout the ballet, only Juliet and Romeo can be found wearing shades of ivory and cream. The Duke demands peace and in their reluctance to accede, we start to get to know Romeo and his two homeboys Mercutio, dancing with wit and dazzle by company soloist Derek Dunn, and Benvolio, the terrific soloist Isaac Akiba. Later we are treated to several sword fights among the men, the staccato clash of the weapons adding to the menace.

The lovers finally meet in Scene Three: On opening night, Romeo was danced by the charming and talented Principal dancer Paulo Arrais, and Juliet by Misa Kuranaga, a strong and angelic Principal dancer Boston fans have been watching with delight since she first joined the Boston Ballet company in 2003. Their effortless lifts and intense connection with each other heightened the drama.

The pair was utterly believable as hormonal teenagers full of unfamiliar but exhilarating desires. The awkward start to their romance developed before our eyes into a full-blown passion. Their pas de deux under the full moon was ecstatic, leading to a sweet kiss in which only their lips touched. Until, that is, Juliet nearly swoons, teetering backwards en pointe before Romeo catches her in his embrace. The sexuality ramps up from that that point, when we later see them unbearably parting as they rise from her bed.

Despite the heavy parental pressure on Juliet to marry Paris, the man they have chosen for her, the youngsters sneak off to the chapel in the woods of the local Friar. The subsequent twists and turns lead to a tragedy that allows the lead dancers to demonstrate their superb acting chops. There is as much dramatic story-telling as there is classical dance in this production, a hallmark of the work of the choreographer John Cranko. He premiered this nearly three-hour "Romeo and Juliet" in 1962 when he was ballet director of Stuttgart Ballet, and its success served as a catapult to his professional standing. The Boston Ballet performed this work twice before - in 2008 and 2011.

The costumes and the sets - both developed by Jurgen Rose in 1968 - were integral to the dancing to an unusual degree, setting the mood and amplifying the movement. At formal balls for the aristocrats, layers of deep velvets and satins added heft and substance to their traditions and more constrained movements. At market celebrations, streamers and ribbons on the costumes added bright animation to the fun, augmenting every leap or twirl. The farm parade of Act II was a visual highlight, not the least when the King of Clowns is carried in aloft on his own legs in splits.

I'd especially like to mention the work of two guest artists. Elizabeth Olds brought to the minor role of Juliet's Nurse a palatable depth of affection and support for her charge, increasing the emotional gravity of every scene she was in. And kudos to Gavriel Heine who is guest conducting Sergei Prokofiev's theatrical score until March 25, after which Mischa Santora will take over that role.

"Romeo and Juliet" continues through April 8 at the Boston Opera House, 539 Washington Street, Boston, MA. For further information, visit the Boston Ballet website.

Sue Katz is a "wordsmith and rebel" who has been widely published on the three continents where she has lived. She used to be proudest of her 20-year martial arts career, her world travel, and her edgy blog Consenting Adult (suekatz.typepad.com), but now she's all about her collection of short stories about the love lives of older people, Lillian's Last Affair.


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