Colleen Boresta

Pastor's 'Romeo and Juliet'

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I attended the April 2nd matinee of The Joffrey Ballet’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’.  I used to love seeing the Joffrey perform in the 1980s and early 1990s.  Then they moved to Chicago and New York has not seen this company for a very long time.  The last time I saw the Joffrey was in 1994. 

 

This ‘Romeo and Juliet’ is set to the usual Prokokiev score, but the choreography is by Krzysztopf Pastor.  Pastor’s version of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ is really not a ballet.  It is more like a modern dance piece.  Juliet never dances on pointe.  Unlike most ‘Romeo and Juliets’ this work does not take place in the Renaissance.  The first act is situated in Mussolini’s Italy of the 1930s.  Act II takes place in the 1950s and in Act III the audience finds themselves in the 1990s.  At times Pastor’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ seems very much like ‘West Side Story’ (which of course was based on ‘Romeo and Juliet’.)  This is especially true in the second act, where the young girls with their blonde ponytails and poodle skirts are reminiscent of the Jets’ girlfriends in ‘West Side Story’.

 

I am most used to Kenneth MacMillan’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and in Pastor’s adaptation I wasn’t swept away by the balcony scene.  Alberto Velazquez as Romeo and Amanda Assucena are a very sweet couple, with nice chemistry.  Edson Barbosa was a powerful Tybalt who dances much more than the character does in MacMillan’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’.  As Mercutio, Derrick Agnoletti is a delight in both his acting and dancing.  One of the things I liked about this production was that Mercutio and Tybalt’s deaths are not drawn out as they are in the MacMillan ‘Romeo and Juliet’.

 

I enjoyed watching this new ‘Romeo and Juliet’ but I agree with the woman sitting next to me who said that she prefers the classical style.  The Joffrey is such a wonderful company.  I wish they would go back to dancing the Cranko ‘Romeo and Juliet’.

 

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Posted (edited)

I saw this with a different cast from above--Paolo Rodrigues and Victoria Jaiani.  This Juliet was on pointe.  There are  two great PDDs in this ballet and the performance fell short...However, if any one is at fault it is the choreographer---and it is not the comparison with MacMillan that kept creeping up--it was also Tudor and Bejart.  Mercutio was  lifted strait  out of MacMillan.  Rodrigues and Jaiani are two beautiful dancers.  If they did not reach the passionate heights of more celebrated casts, it was due to the choreographer.  The saving grace was using the Prokofiev score.

 

one final comment on the costuming-----three periods were represented -- 1930s; 1950s, and 1990s......and the costumes looked alike in all three periods.......?????

Edited by atm711

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Several years ago the Dance Critics Association held a very interesting conference about Romeo and Juliet as a ballet -- they did a census at the time and there were easily 25 different productions that used the play as a narrative spine (underestimating since I cannot find my proceedings at the moment). 

 

Perhaps it's time to do a little census here.  I'll make a new topic, so as not to interfere with this discussion, but count on your fingers -- how many different R&Js do you know?

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Posted (edited)

I think the Joffrey holds a special place in the hearts of most NY ballet fans who were around when they were a NY based company.  Perhaps that why it took so long for anyone to post about this engagement - despite the fact that I saw several BT'ers at the opening night performance.

 

For my part, I was reluctant to post because my affection for this company prompted thinking along the lines of  "If you can't say anything nice..."

 

I saw the first cast with Christine Rocas, and Rory Hoenstein ( as well as Yoshihisa Arai as Mercutio, Fabrice Calmels as Capulet, April Daly as Lady Capulet and Temur Suluashvili as Tybalt). In the performance I saw Juliet was definitely on pointe. I think many of the other female roles were also danced on point but  I'm not sure because the choreography was so un-classical and banal that the pointwork was hardly noticeable, and certainly not memorable.

 

All of the dancers were good but unfortunately none of them were able to overcome the material with the possible exceptions of Arai, Calmels and Daly. When the highlights are Mercutio and Lord & Lady Capulet you know your R&J is in trouble.

 

Not only did I not like the choreography, this production left me completely unmoved, which is really hard to accomplish - while I don't like the Morris or Martins versions at least they were engaging and I certainly shed a tear or two. But not with this one.

Edited by nysusan

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Posted (edited)

As I've already said I've seen the MacMillan R & J many many times.  I've also seen the Cranko version, Peter Martin's version for NYCB and whatever the Pacific Northewest Ballet danced at City Center a few years ago.  I can't remember who the choreographer was, but I do remember that I really disliked it.  The Pastor version I've already commented on.  I don't think I've seen any other Romeo and Juliets.  

Edited by Colleen Boresta

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3 hours ago, Colleen Boresta said:

whatever the Pacific Northewest Ballet danced at City Center a few years ago.  I can't remember who the choreographer was, but I do remember that I really disliked it. 

 

That would be the version by Jean-Christophe Maillot.

 

If you'd like to click over here, I'm hoping that people will chat about the various productions they've seen (rather than hijacking this conversation about the Joffrey)

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I have seen this version of the ballet in Chicago, and I agree that it is difficult for the dancers to overcome the choreography. I so wish Wheater would bring back Cranko!

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3 hours ago, chicagoballetomane said:

I have seen this version of the ballet in Chicago, and I agree that it is difficult for the dancers to overcome the choreography. I so wish Wheater would bring back Cranko!

 

And I wish he would hark back to the early Joffrey's interest in historical works and go for something like the Ashton or Tudor versions.  Or, if he needs a program-length work, maybe the Morris. 

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Posted (edited)

1 hour ago, sandik said:

And I wish he would hark back to the early Joffrey's interest in historical works and go for something like the Ashton or Tudor versions. 

 

From what I remember of London Festival Ballet's revival of the Ashton version, the ballet was clearly tailored to the skills of Danish dancers. It's a little peculiar for this very reason, but I would submit that unless the Joffrey dancers were adept at Bournonville technique (and I really couldn't say), they shouldn't attempt the Ashton.

 

I would also be inclined to vote for a return of the Cranko version, since it is tied to the company's history. (Ditto for the National Ballet of Canada.) But I would be grateful for any attempt to bring back the Tudor.

Edited by volcanohunter

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Well, the LA Ballet did the Ashton last spring (but they've got a Dane as a co-director).  The early Joffrey company worked hard to present a wide variety of styles -- I do wish they were still working in that vein.

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Posted (edited)

Right now Ashley Wheater is trying to make the company SFB 2.0/NYCB lite. I echo your wish for the Joffrey to harken back to its roots. Over the last several seasons, one of the best pieces that stood out to me was Arpino's Sea Shadow - absolutely breathtaking. I will admit that the Wheelson Swan Lake was delightful, so I don't disagree with Ashley's choices entirely, just most of them. I almost walked out of the most dreadful Bayadere imaginable when Joffrey staged Houston Ballet's appalling watered down trite. 

Edited by chicagoballetomane

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4 hours ago, chicagoballetomane said:

I almost walked out of the most dreadful Bayadere imaginable when Joffrey staged Houston Ballet's appalling watered down trite. 

 

Oh yes, the Stanton Welch Bayadère is horrendous

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5 hours ago, chicagoballetomane said:

... I echo your wish for the Joffrey to harken back to its roots. Over the last several seasons, one of the best pieces that stood out to me was Arpino's Sea Shadow - absolutely breathtaking. I will admit that the Wheelson Swan Lake was delightful, so I don't disagree with Ashley's choices entirely, just most of them. I almost walked out of the most dreadful Bayadere imaginable when Joffrey staged Houston Ballet's appalling watered down trite. 

 

Back when Joffrey started the company it was very much about his interests -- he's said to have told his first ballet teacher (Mary Ann Wells) that, basically, he was going to run a company that had everything, but his early influences were from the touring Ballet Russe companies.  They were known for the variety of their one-acts, so that an evening would have something classical, something dramatic, and something exhilarating.  As he got more established, Joffrey made a point of reclaiming older works that weren't in anyone's current rep.  He needed to make his company both mobile and distinctive, and he had a great sense of what would work as a program and what would sell to an audience.  They came to Seattle on a regular basis, and did quite well until the early 1980s when they bowed to the request of their presenter and did a week of Cranko's Taming of the Shrew -- audiences stayed away and the presenter lost money.  That loss eventually sank the presenter, and the company (as a full company) hasn't been here since.

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i'm not sure anyone has recalled the ROMEO AND JULIET Joffrey brought in for his co before getting the Cranko staging, it featured 3 different women in the role of Juliet:

Romeo and Juliet :    Chor: Oscar Araiz; mus: Sergei Prokof'ev; cos: Renata Schussheim. First perf: Buenos Aires, Sept 15, 1970, Ballet del Teatro San Martin. // First perf. by The Joffrey Ballet: New York, City Center Fifty-Fifth Street Dance Theater, Oct 12, 1977; lighting: Jennifer Tipton.

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3 hours ago, rg said:

i'm not sure anyone has recalled the ROMEO AND JULIET Joffrey brought in for his co before getting the Cranko staging, it featured 3 different women in the role of Juliet:

Romeo and Juliet :    Chor: Oscar Araiz; mus: Sergei Prokof'ev; cos: Renata Schussheim. First perf: Buenos Aires, Sept 15, 1970, Ballet del Teatro San Martin. // First perf. by The Joffrey Ballet: New York, City Center Fifty-Fifth Street Dance Theater, Oct 12, 1977; lighting: Jennifer Tipton.

 

I was rummaging around looking for information about this one for another conversation -- did anyone here ever see this? 

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