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New Production Of Romeo And Juliet

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#1 bart


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Posted 20 March 2006 - 05:45 PM

This new production of R&J -- with splendid new sets, costumes, and lighting design -- was choreographed for Ballet Florida by Vicente Nebrada quite a while ago. The ballet's strong points are in the presentation of character and the broad, sometimes melodramatic expression of feeling.

In the hands of skillful dancer-actors like Tina Martin (Juliet), Maria Angeles Llamas (cold and demented as Lady Capulet, passionately involved with Tybalt), Joseph Bucheck (a beautifully underplayed Nurse), and Jerry Opdenaker (moving and sympathetic in the small but cdrucial role of Lord Capulet) it tells the story very well.

Nebrada's choreography is pleasant in a mid-20th-century classical vein. But the range is limited, and not particularly imaginative or interesting. Some choices, for example turning the first part of the ball scene into a torrid pas de deux for Lady Capulet and Tybalt (to the music of the Dance of the Knights), were questionable.

Some passages, however, notably the pas de deux for Romeo and the "dead" Juliet, and the lovelyl dance for Juliet's bridesmaid's before the discovery of her body -- seemed to be on a much higher level. 23 of the company's dancers, joined by present and former students, managed to fill the large stage during the marketplace scenes and the ball at the Capulet's palance. The sets were splendid, moving smoothly across the stage or into the flies as one scene flowed into the next.

This was Tina Martin's Romeo and Juliet, Martin is a strong and technically accomplished dancer, especially in dramatic roles. The girlish, playful Juliet of the first Act is not something that comes naturally toher, but she was convincing and quite charming. As the tragedy developed, her natural dramatic gifts came into play. She's decisive, a risk-taker. Even more than Romeo (a solid performance by Markus Schaffer), she seems to impel the action forward. There's no hesitation in the way she appears at the balcony and then rushes down the stairs to join Romeo. When he holds out his open arms to her in the balcony pas de deux, she leaps towards him with abandon.. Later in the ballet, when faced with her parent's ultimatum to marry Paris, she passes quickly through panic and despair before suddenly deciding on a plan of action. As she rushes to Friar Lawrence's cell -- a swirl of white drdess ana cape against a black background and mist -- she is running towards something rather than away from it. Later on, she takes the poison boldly.

Charles Passy, reviewing the production in the Palm Beach Post, refers to "Nebrada's often too-obvious pantomime." There's a lot of truth to that. This is not the subtle miming one might find at the Royal Danish Ballet. Gestures were broad, eyes flashed, teeth were clenched, love was effusive, grief was heroic in its size. But many of the gestures (small and large) remain in my memory several days after the last performance. Juliet in Act one curtseys formally to her mother, then rushes forward to throw herself into her father's arms. Act I ends with he nurse putting Juliet's hands on her newly budding breasts: Juliet looks astonished as the curtain falls. Lord Capulet, humiliated in front of his guests by his wife and the thuggish Tybalt, involuntarily forms a fist, which suddenly unfolds towards his wife, an invitation to join him in a continuation of the dance.

This was an astonishingly ambitious classical production from a small company, most of whose work has been contemporary. It's another solid step on what is by far the best season in several years. I find it hard to imagine that only a month ago they were doing works in a ocmpletely different style: Wainrot's Rite of Spring and new work by Dominic Walsh. The long standing ovation at the end of the Friday and Saturday performances were something you don't find very often around here. Good job, Ballet Florida!

#2 liebs


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Posted 20 March 2006 - 06:49 PM

Didn't Nebrada do this production for the Joffrey many years ago?

#3 bart


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Posted 20 March 2006 - 07:34 PM

Interesting question. In the program, Marie Hale writes that it is "a work that was created for us in the very first year of the company." Since that was a school company, with a small number of professional dancers, it might have been quite different from the ballet performed today. Elsewhere in the program Nebrada is described as having been the "resident choreographer of Ballet Florida.

Nebrada did dance with the Joffrey, according to this bio, Before that he danced with Petit in France, and afterwards with the Harkness Ballet.

I don't know much else about his work. Of his many ballets once in Ballet Florida's rep, only a few have been performed in the 5 years I've been attending their performances, including Gemini (to Mahler), Doble Corchea (A Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra), Percussion for 6 Men, and a full-length Cinderella.

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