abatt

Romeo and Juliet

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Monday, July 5 performance

Romeo -- Gomes

Juliet -- Kent

Mercutio -- Cornejo

Benvolio -- C Lopez

Tybalt -- G Saveliev

Paris -- S Radetsky

Lady Capulet -- S Abrera

Lord Capulet -- V Barbee

Frair Laurence -- F Franklin

Three Harlots -- L Paris, A Milewski, K Boone

This was the first time I saw the ABT production of R&J. Some parts don't seem to be ideal. As examples, (1) Juliet literally playing with a cloth doll and jumping into nurse's lap during the sequence when she is introduced to Paris in Act 1, (2) the distracting nature of the role of the three harlots (I understand they pair Romeo and his buddies in some sequences), and (3) horrible costumes for Paris (the super long droopy sleeves that hang down like balloons) and for most of the corps (although the costumes for Romeo and Juliet were fine). Also, some parts of the translation from Shakespeare's play to the ABT production that are omitted seem to be unhelpful. In the ballet, there is no attempt on the part of the Frair to warn Romeo about Juliet's having taken the "deep sleep" potion to mimic death. In the play, there is such intent on the part of the Frair, but the message never reaches Romeo. That makes sense. Not even explaining why Romeo was never attempted to be alerted to Juliet's "deep sleep" does not. Also, I don't like the addition of the Harlots into the ballet, relative to the Shakespeare play. And the "market"/town center backdrop is used too much and is somewhat monocromatic.

There was a leaflet included in the program, honoring G Parkinson:

"This evening we honor Georgina Parkinson, a luminous Juliet and the original Rosaline in Sir Kenneth MacMillan's production of Romeo and Juliet. After an illustrious 20-year career as a ballerina with The Royal Ballet, she became a cherished ballet mistress and coach at [ABT]. Georgina supported, mentored and inspired our dancers for over 30 years. Her steadfast commitment and sparkling wit are greatly missed."

I had a smoked salmon plate ($11 or 12; different from the smoked salmon sandwiches) and a sangria during one of the intermissions.

Ambonnay, the 3 Harlots, while they are not in the play, in this instance (I believe) serve the purpose of showing Romeo's maturation as an individual and lover. His frivolous play with them, is in contrast to his more serious encounters with Juliet. Because we don't have Shakespeare's language to explain Romeo's thought-processes and change in attitude, Macmillan used the harlots. Cranko had gypsies, though not used in quite the same way. I do think there are other ways to convey Romeo's maturation, but then it wouldn't be MacMillan without the undertone of sex in some of the byplay.

The thoughts/actions of Fr.Lawrence/Laurence? are extraneous to the thoughts/actions of the two principals and their immediate families, which is what a ballet (which again cannot use Shakespeare's glorious language to convey inner arguments) should concentrate on.

The costuming is almost correct for the time period--15th century Italy. And thank goodness it is only costume sleeves that are long, and not the extra long pointed toes on the shoes (which some 15th c. aristo-fops even held up with small chains attached to their knee garters!). But I do worry about ease of movement and overheating for the dancers. For some other 'takes' on that time period's clothing, see Zefirelli's 1968 film. (Last year, the costumes from the film were on display at Columbus Center, I was in heaven since I have loved them since I was v. small.)

I'm VERY glad they wrote a tribute to Ms. Parkinson in the program/insert. She deserves every honor.

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4mrdncr -- Thanks. I guess the 3 harlots are less objectionable in tonight's Hallberg/Mathews/Hoven depiction of Romeo/Mercutio/Benvolio. Somehow Hallberg's demeanor and his comportment of youth made the relationship with the harlots lighter and not romantic-focused. Also, Hallberg seemed to be more defending the harlots against the disrespectful behavior of Tybalt and some of the other Capulets towards the women.

I guess the harlots could serve other potential purposes in the ballet, beyond the prominent one you identified:

-- They serve as partners for the Romeo trio at one point in Act I.

-- Their antics allow some of the leading characters to get sufficient rest at some points. At a point in Act II, while Mercutio/Benvolio/one danseur from the villagers' wedding procession, dance with the three harlots, Romeo is positioned at the top of a flight of stairs in the Verona market area. He is sort of resting for a little while.

-- I guess the typical full-length ballet has several roles for female soloist-level-type dancers. In Romeo and Juliet, there really isn't a meaningful ballerina dancing role among Lady Capulet, nurse, Rosaline, etc., beyond Juliet. The support female roles, other than the harlots, are more acting roles. So the harlots provide the typical opportunities that one would like for female soloists or soloist hopefuls (e.g., the non-lilac, fairies in Sleeping Beauty).

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Ambonnay- how did you post so quickly? I saw the same show and right when I got back I saw your post!! Speedy!!

I definitely think David and Marcelo have different approaches to Romeo. As David said in the recent ABT e-newsletter: "[Romeo's] life seems incomplete. Once he meets Juliet, he never questions it again." The way I saw it, David's Romeo believes in finding "the One" and is not too interested in Harlots. He thinks he loves Rosaline, but is tentative and shy. We see a change in his approach when he sees Juliet. Immediately he realizes that she is "the One." He goes for her right away without inhibitions. I loved David's performance tonight. He looked wonderful on stage.

I didn't see Marcelo's performance last night, but I've seen him before. I think he has Romeo more on a testosterone high and basically wants any girl he can have. I remember he placed a huge kiss on the bride's cheek (during the wedding procession in act 2) and was much more into the Harlots. Of course his love for Juliet was much deeper, but he showed more uncontrollable adolescent desire than Hallberg.

I'll be watching the gomes/Vishneva performance on Sat. night so I can confirm or deny my above statements about Gomes.

I'm pretty curious about Osipova. I can't really imagine her as Juliet, and I wonder how she'll do on her Juliet debut!

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Ambonnay- how did you post so quickly? I saw the same show and right when I got back I saw your post!! Speedy!!

I definitely think David and Marcelo have different approaches to Romeo. As David said in the recent ABT e-newsletter: "[Romeo's] life seems incomplete. Once he meets Juliet, he never questions it again." The way I saw it, David's Romeo believes in finding "the One" and is not too interested in Harlots. He thinks he loves Rosaline, but is tentative and shy. We see a change in his approach when he sees Juliet. Immediately he realizes that she is "the One." He goes for her right away without inhibitions. I loved David's performance tonight. He looked wonderful on stage.

I didn't see Marcelo's performance last night, but I've seen him before. I think he has Romeo more on a testosterone high and basically wants any girl he can have. I remember he placed a huge kiss on the bride's cheek (during the wedding procession in act 2) and was much more into the Harlots. Of course his love for Juliet was much deeper, but he showed more uncontrollable adolescent desire than Hallberg.

I'll be watching the gomes/Vishneva performance on Sat. night so I can confirm or deny my above statements about Gomes.

I'm pretty curious about Osipova. I can't really imagine her as Juliet, and I wonder how she'll do on her Juliet debut!

onxmyxtoes -- There were two intermissions, and I stayed in my seat during one of them. I started taking down some thoughts on my iPhone which became the crux of my post.

I'm glad you mentioned Marcelo kissing ladies other than Juliet. He planted a full on kiss on one of the harlots' lips during Act I Monday evening. Cornejo did the same on a harlot after he gets stabbed by Tybalt and as he saunters about before his collapse in death. I was wondering whether Hallberg would follow suit. As you might recall last night, Hallberg only pecked on the cheek one of the harlots, in a gentle/greeting kind of way, during a market scene other than the first one. Hallberg has already met Murphy at that time, and the kiss on the cheeks (as opposed to Marcelo's on the lips) seemed an unobtrusive greeting and expressive of how the Montague trio viewed the Harlots with compassion and did not look down upon them.

I agree that Hallberg's portrayal of Romeo is less hormones-drive. He's more pensive, more coming onto his own. He seems slightly younger than Marcelo's Romeo. What is great about that is each danseur's portrayal is in keeping with how their dancing styles would suggest they might play Romeo (not the only way each could play Romeo, but one of the ways you could see each of them could play that role).

I must stress how beautifully, beautifully David has been dancing this Met season. I thought he danced gorgeously last year and before, with great technique and beauty of line. He has continued so remarkably.

On your curiosity about Hallberg/Osipova, I'll try to report the best I can on that. I also have tickets to the Gomes/Vishneva, because I had been intent on seeing Corella. I didn't think I could do both ballets on the Sleeping Beauty double bill Saturday (because the pair I preferred seeing Hallberg/Osipova was in the evening, and I worried that watching the earlier couple would make me tired for the evening performance). However, I had originally planned to see whether I could see Gomes/Vishneva after Hallberg/Osipova this Saturday. We'll see if I can do that.

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Monday, July 5 performance

Romeo -- Gomes

Juliet -- Kent

Mercutio -- Cornejo

Benvolio -- C Lopez

Marcelo technically paired Kent well. However, in Acts I and II (except for the Act I balcony scene and the Act II chapel scene), I found Marcelo's Romeo to be too forward, flamboyant at times, and impetuous. During those portions, the positive qualities in Marcelo that make him a good bravado-type lead left me thinking that his Romeo lacked a soulfulness and an inner reserve. During those portions, he seemed more into himself (or conforming to his notions of himself) than anything, or he could have been playing Basilio in Don Quixote.

You are right. Soulfulness, inner reserve and maybe a touch of pathos are essential qualities of Shakespear's Romeo. The approach of Gomes to the role you described seems the same as Corella's, which is why I don't understand why some people see Corella as the best Romeo. But then the MacMillan production in general did away with the underlying sense of pathos and dark premonition of Shakespear's original work.

I think Nureyev's version might be more faithful to Shakespear's R&J in this respect. Rumor has it that the literary critics reacted better to Nureyev's production than dance critics did initially.

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Some additional thoughts about last night's (Tuesday's) Romeo & Juliet:

-- I have been thinking about whether certain soloist danseurs seem to be dancing better with, or look physically better next to, certain male principals. I think Hoven works very well with Hallberg, and Hoven is tall enough and substantial looking enough (in a good sense) that he does not get washed out by how classically distinctive and ideally-proportioned Hallberg seems. Jared Mathews on the other hand looks overshadowed physically by Hallberg's height.

True, Mathews' portrayal of Mercutio last evening was intended to be young. I had never before seen Mathews with a shaggy mop of ungelled/unmanipulated hair (with natural bang-type hair on his forehead) and playing a sort-of-wit-imbued role. Mathews is not a short danseur, but last night he looked shorter than Hallberg and Hoven and his jumps seemed more earth-bound than theirs. That being said, Mathews did well last night; the height of his jumps were never his strong point anyhow and it's hard to follow Cornejo in a role.

-- There are points in the ballet when the Montague trio are wonderfully playful and the interplay among them, filled with wit and charm, adds to the overall ballet. Examples are when the three (1) are dancing outside the Capulet castle, before they venture in, and (2) are playing with Juliet's nurse who had been asked to deliver a letter to Romeo. In the latter scene, the three put their Capulet ball black eye masks on and initially dance in a line parallel to the audience with their arms linked. Then, some of the trio play with the nurse's gown while others hold her arm. At one point, as the nurse is moving along with Mercutio and Benvolio on each side, Romeo sneaks in behind her and lifts the bottom of her skirt (she has other layers) behind her and sort of "hides behind the audience" behind that large skirt. Very cute sequence.

-- I remember Kent's Juliet tried to drink some of the poison from Romeo's vial, but then there was no more, before she stabbed herself. Gillian did not try to do that yesterday night.

-- Patrick Ogle was a pretty good Tybalt. Like Saveliev, he added a small beard and he looked pretty uptight and threatening.

-- This is the first time I have seen either Hallberg or Gomes meaningfully sword fight. Interestingly, they fight sort of in the styles that they dance. Hallberg has more classical posture even when he is fighting. He holds his "non-fighting" arm quite straight (not rigidly so) and at the level of his shoulders behind him as he fights. Until the death of Mercutio, Hallberg's sword fighting is more restrained than Marcelo's.

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But then the MacMillan production in general did away with the underlying sense of pathos and dark premonition of Shakespear's original work.

With Sibley and Dowell in the Macmillan choreography these qualities were all well in evidence--as indeed, though given a somewhat different inflection, with Makarova and Dowell. (I never saw Seymour-Gable or Fonteyn-Nureyev, or Kirkland-Dowell, but I would be very surprised if their performances lacked in these qualities.) With the exception of Lavrosky's version of Romeo and Juliet, I do not think I have ever seen any production of the Prokoviev score that I did not think was very dancer dependent for its interest and emotional power, thought the stunning sets and scenery of Nureyev's version almost carried my interest entirely on their own. (I have not seen Ashton's or Neumeier's versions though...)

Of the Romeos I had the opportunity to see in any version of the Prokoviev score(which do not include Corella but do include Nureyev, Wall, Stiefel, and Bocca), I thought Dowell was by far and away the greatest--the one who most suggested the depths of Romeo's inner life and thus also most set Romeo apart from everyone else on stage, except for Juliet, and who did so through dancing of the greatest nuance, elegance, and ardor. (Edited a bit later to add: I can infer raised eyebrows, since Nureyev always set himself apart on stage, but when I saw him he wasn't setting himself apart as 'Romeo' or connecting the apartness TO his Juliet.)

Let me add: very many thanks for all these reports--and semi-apologies for invoking another generation of dancers. (Only semi apologies because, for a certain generation of ballet fan, referring to a description of Corella as the best Romeo or even calling Ferri--whom I have seen as Juliet--the best Juliet is like throwing red meat in front of a bull; of course we can't help ourselves :wink: .)

If all goes well, then I will make it to New York and have the chance to compare Halberg and Gomez myself this weekend (board moderators: we need a 'superstition' emoticon--perhaps a little yellow head spitting onto the ground or tossing salt over its shoulder).

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Oh, please, not another emoticon....

Let me add: very many thanks for all these reports--and semi-apologies for invoking another generation of dancers. (Only semi apologies because, for a certain generation of ballet fan, referring to a description of Corella as the best Romeo or even calling Ferri--whom I have seen as Juliet--the best Juliet is like throwing red meat in front of a bull; of course we can't help ourselves :wink: .)

No semi-apologies necessary, Drew, that was a wonderful post.

I, too, have enjoyed reading all these reports.

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Ambonnay- I felt that David's Romeo was more mature than marcelo's therefore older? Either way, they have different approaches

I'm at the matinee right now with Cory Sterns and Hee Seo

I feel like Cory hasn't had time to develop his character yet. He was just smiling throughout the first act without much expression. Hee is so fluid and dances with such musicality. She really hears the Prokofiev score. Actually Cory seems to be dancing through the music while Hee IS the music.

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Like ambonnay, I noticed that Hallberg kept his "ballet form" during the whole ballet. Even when he's suppose to be wild and reckless, he holds his body like a noble danseur.whole getting scolded by Paris, he stands in 1st position. This is consistent with he character he plays.

He really is such a pleasure to watch.

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I'm also curious why Michelle wiles doesn't do Juliet. She and Veronica are the only female principals without Juliet in their rep.

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I saw Romeo and Juliet three times in a row this week, and the most lingering scene in my mind is the wail of Romeo (by Gomes) at the death of Mercutio.

After seeing three performances and the previous reviews here, I realized that I had wanted to see my own version of Romeo, which might have come from the Shakespeare’s play or the famous movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio, a shy, reserved, dreamy, romantic boy. So, at first, I was perplexed by a flamboyant, cocksure, prankish Romeo, which might be even offensive to someone who cherishes a lyrical Romeo. Now, I think that is more practically plausible character which the only son of a rich family may have (though I do not know much of MacMillan, I think MacMillan intentionally got rid of nobility from Romeo, and portrayed him as a guy playing with everything in the world, including Rosaline and harlots, out of much confidence, then finally being played with by the fate).

Gomes’s Romeo doesn’t change even after he met Juliet. People don’t change simply because they got something they want. Rather, they change only after they lose something precious. So, I think the time when Mercutio died and Romeo was sentenced to exile was the real awakening moment to Romeo, not the time when Romeo met Juliet.

After that, Romeo clearly changed. Gomes seemed quite desperate and determined when he danced the last PDD with Kent at the beginning of the third Act. Though I wanted to see more sentimentally sweet PDD because that was the last PDD between Romeo and Juliet, but I agreed with his interpretation and expression. Through the death of Mercutio, Romeo had realized that the quite capricious destiny might easily deprive him, the son of Montague, of anything, even something important to him. And, ironically at that time he finally found something he could not lose, Juliet, the love. So, when Romeo found Juliet dead, when nothing meaningful was left with him, he abandoned his life, like nothing, without hesitation.

While Gomes showed a basic framework as above, Kent embroidered it with her exquisite expression of joy, love, sorrow, despair. She seemed to protest the destiny without a moan, but with a great courage. Gomes and Kent were quite a contrast to each other, in terms of character, in this ballet. It's all the more tragic that with such cooperation between two different characters (i.e., with every means available to human), their attempt to overcome the fate failed. I was reminded of a novel by John Steinbeck, “Of Mice and Man”, and a poem by Robert Burns, “To a mouse”, which gave the title to the novel:

“The best laid schemes of mice and men
 go often askew,
 and leave us nothing but grief and pain”

It doesn’t seem that Gomes (and MacMillan) was successful enough in getting understanding of his interpretation, maybe because MacMillan is not as famous as Shakespeare or DiCaprio, and everyone has his or her version of Romeo and Juliet. I thought briefly that a dancer who is more of a technician might fit better for this role, though it is known to be an acting role, so that each audience may imagine whatever he wants.

Regardless of all those interpretations above, I was deeply moved by his explosion of sorrow. So genuine, so grave. I am wondering whether Gomes has a deep well of the grief at the bottom of his heart.

My final words are on Hee Seo, today’s Juliet. She was fluid, as someone said. When she stood at the balcony under the moonlight, she looked breathtakingly sensuous. Just before she died, she stretched out her arm toward Romeo, with a faint smile around her lips (when her arm touched Romeo, the smile turned into a joy). So sad.

One more thing - I would like to add my apologies for this long review, without much mentioning the dancing itself. As I haven't seen many ballet performances so far and do not know much about the ballet, I naturally came to focus on the interpretation and understanding of the character itself.

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One more thing - I would like to add my apologies for this long review, without much mentioning the dancing itself. As I haven't seen many ballet performances so far and do not know much about the ballet, I naturally came to focus on the interpretation and understanding of the character itself.

There's no reason for any apology -- keep the thoughts coming! :wink: What did you think of the Hallberg/Murphy performance?

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Great to read the reports so far. Thanks to all.

One more thing - I would like to add my apologies for this long review, without much mentioning the dancing itself. As I haven't seen many ballet performances so far and do not know much about the ballet, I naturally came to focus on the interpretation and understanding of the character itself.

Kyeong, not to worry.. Interpretation and understanding of character, when expressed through movement, ARE dancing -- or at least essential elements of dancing.

Thanks for the insight into Gomes's interpretation:

I think the time when Mercutio died and Romeo was sentenced to exile was the real awakening moment to Romeo, not the time when Romeo met Juliet.
This scene can be so powerful when done with the intensity that it deserves. I wonder whether great ballet technique is really what is required here. For instance, although I agree with Drew that Dowell was an extraordinary Romeo, I don't think that he was really convincing in the rowdy, dangerous world of the Market Place. It's a complicated scene, with so many layers of, and shifts in, mood. When performed by the wrong kind of Romeo, It can seem false or flat. It sounds like Gomes did it right.

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Ambonnay, bart - thanks for kind words. I feel relieved. Before posting, I somewhat hesitated because I was not sure whether my thoughts can be said a dance review.

Ambonnay, I am going to see Hallberg again on Saturday. I think I can write something about his dancing/acting after that performance. I also look forward to your continued review about Hallberg.

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I'm also curious why Michelle wiles doesn't do Juliet. She and Veronica are the only female principals without Juliet in their rep.

The lifts in this ballet are very difficult for the men to carry off. In fact, I have noticed that the men tend to give up the role of Romeo relatively early as compared to other ballets. Tall, robust women like Wiles and Part are generally not cast as Juliet, I think, because of the lifts. The women that tend to get cast are short and small, or very thin women like Kent and Vishneva.

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Well, I hope to elaborate more later, but I just wanted to say that Reyes and Cornejo were wonderful in tonight's performance! Actually, the whole cast elevated it to a level that it didn't quite reach for me on Monday, and I couldn't help but grin with delight during Act I.

I've always admired Reyes for her quicksilver steps, impeccable musical timing, and charming, if quirky, personality, and this season I enjoyed her as Prudence in "Lady of the Camellias" and especially in "The Dream." But I was even more impressed by how she danced as Juliet in Act I. At the party, when she is dancing with Paris, it seemed like carried the movement seamlessly through each musical phrase, like it was one long breath. For me, she really BECAME the music, and made me hear the score/see the steps anew.

Cornejo was a slightly more earnest, boyish, soft-spoken Romeo than Gomes, and he and Reyes made quite a sweet couple!

I have to go but I'll just say that I really enjoyed Simkin as Benvolio. There were a few times where he got out of sync with Romeo and Mercutio, but he just has this star quality and I couldn't help but focus on him.

And lastly, I loved Stella as Lady Capulet. I thought she was very convincing after Tybalt's death.

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The lifts in this ballet are very difficult for the men to carry off.

Gomes' lifts looked somewhat more effortless than Hallberg's, esp in the "he thinks Juliet is dead/when she is sleeping" scene in the Capulet tombs. Gomes made Kent look lighter than Hallberg made Gillian look, and there was a slightly better echoing of the PDD from the balcony scene with Gomes/Kent in the Caputlet tomb scene. That might be because Kent is probably a little bit lighter than Murphy weight-wise, so it was easier to make lifting Kent's "dead" body easier. I'm going to pay attention to this in Hallberg/Osipova and report back, because Osipova might be a bit easier to lift.

Note the comment about about looking effortless does not mean that I preferred Gomes' lifts. Hallberg's lifts still had Hallberg with a certain beauty of line, while he was lifting, that made them special. Also, in the balcony scene, Hallberg's movements while he had a loose off-cream tunic on and while his tunic and hair were almost "billowing in the wind from the movements" looked romantic and lyrical.

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I'm also curious why Michelle wiles doesn't do Juliet. She and Veronica are the only female principals without Juliet in their rep.

You are kidding, right? I can't imagine either Michelle or Veronika allowing herself(Juliet) to be abused and hit by both her father and Paris. Both ladies would probably hit back! Or how about jumping into her nurse's lap! . And the lifts, the lifts! Yowza!

But a few years back Veronika did a very credible and moving Lady Capulet. And I suppose if Michelle were not a principle she could do one of the Harlots OK. But those roles sort of seem wasted on almost anyone. It grieves me to see Misty and Kristi still doing them, however good they are. There just aren't any roles for the secondary female women in this ballet.

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I think Wiles used to perform as one of the Harlots pretty regularly as she was climbing up through the company, and Part was often a very memorable Lady Capulet. I wouldn't think either would be a very natural Juliet, though. I think there's a reason why they excel in roles like Lilac Fairy and Myrtha.

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Mymsyb- no, I wasn't kidding. I'm not that familiar with Wiles which is why I asked. I had taken a class with her earlier that day when I realized that she didn't do Juliet.

From what I know about her, I wouldn't think she'd be a natural, but I was just wondering why she seemed to never have done the role

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I like strong, feisty Juliets. I also like the alternative Act I Giselle who knows she's sick, but doesn't want to act sick and restrained all the time.

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Wiles also is a very stiff dancer in the upper back and that would not aid in her portrayal of Juliet (I've never thought of her being much of an actor as well, though admittedly I have seen her dance only a couple times). Veronika might at least be able to act enough to overcome her body type (could also be aided by a VERY tall cast in supporting roles), but like someone else said the partnering would be extremely difficult unless they brought Roberto Bolle, the human forklift, in to dance with her.

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...........the Harlots OK. But those roles sort of seem wasted on almost anyone. It grieves me to see Misty and Kristi still doing them, however good they are. /quote]

I don't know how the women in ABT feel about them, but I always thought the Harlots would be great fun to do. I used to enjoy roles that weren't too demanding technically, so one could just relax and enjoy performing. :wink:

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