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Webre's Romeo & Juliet, 4/14 - 16 '05

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On Tuesday night, at the gala to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Washington School of Ballet, they performed two excerpts from Romeo and Juliet -- a ball scene and the balcony pdd -- with Michelle Jimenez and Runqiao Du, who I gather also danced last night at the preview.

Michelle danced great , and what was striking was how she conveyed unalloyed, even delerious, joy of being in love. There wasn't any dark or ominous note of trouble to come. Runqiao's partnering was very strong and confidence-building. He was head-over-heels too, but in a slighter older-and-wiser way.

The ball scene featured richly coloured costumes, bizarre yet appropriate headresses, and a comical solo by Jason Hartley -- sorry I don't know the name of the role.

The gala also featured an excerpt from Wheeldon's There Where She Loved, with the same two incandescent , spine-tingling sopranos who performed when TWSL was programmed in February. It was fabulous to see this work again -- Brianne Bland danced well.

JAred Nelson is back from Boston Ballet - not sure whether to stay or only temporarily -- and it was good to see him back with his surfer guy looks. HE will also be doing Romeo, I understand.

Jason HArtley closed the evening to thunderous applause with the Trey McIntyre solo piece set to Etta James, "It's a quarter to three..." Sorry, I don't have the program.

The non-dance part of the gala was mercifully short: Baryshnikov was given the "Mary Day award" and made a short speech alluding to inadequate funding for arts education. Miss Day (the founder of WSB) was not present but was the subject of numerous paeans. Chelsea Clinton gave a gracious and self-deprecating little speech about what ballet education had meant to her and to others who don't end up making a career of it.

It was a pretty good evening as these things go; I hope the black-tie crowd gave them lots of money.

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I was there both Tuesday and Wednesday. (Tuesday ticket from TicketPlace...). The gala was quite pleasant, though I was shocked to see that nearly all of the female presenters/hostesses/whatever were wearing shoes that were so impractical or ill-fitting that they couldn't even stand straight up on two feet at a podium for a few minutes.

The dancing was a delight, especially the defile. (It would've been nice, though, if somebody had given Chelsea Clinton a heads-up that it's day-fee-lay, not de-file...Otherwise her presentation was really short and sweet.)

Wednesday: I loved the costumes and agree completely with the assessment that the various headgear was "bizarre but appropriate". I wonder if these costumes and the Nutcracker costumes had the same designer(s)--I was reminded of the elaborate mushroom headpieces from Nutcracker.

The corps ladies were in slippers rather than pointe shoes or character shoes, which I thought was odd.

I liked the ball scene costumes very much and Romeo and Juliet's less. The bedroom/wedding/death scenes were a little too plain, and Juliet's overdress just wasn't that appealing.

The casting and dancing were terrific for the most part. Some of the lifts for Juliet were really spectacular, especially the one in which she is sitting on Romeo's shoulder, legs straight out, and then falls backward, with Romeo holding her legs steady so that she just arches back.

There was a certain amount of clunking backstage during some of the scene changes, but that will likely be ironed out by tonight.

Note to WB cast and those with connections thereto: When the music is quiet or when there is no music, we _can_ hear you talking on- and backstage.

A lovely sissone is lovelier when another cast member is not _heard_ saying "yowsah". <Sigh> (Does this mean I am getting old and cranky?)

Edited by koshka
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Romeo and Juliet costumes--the production is Boston Ballet's....I haven't seen the whole yet, but I was wonderfully impressed with the bit I saw on Tuesday night of the ball scene.

The Juliet nightdress is dreadful..../ nasty shift, unadorned, badly cut skirt.

Jason Hartley did Mercutio in the ballroom scene.

More when I see it!

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I am a student at the school so I was in the Gala and am glad to hear that it went well.

I also attended the preview show last night (wed.). I thought it was WONDERFUL! Michele Jimenez was gorgeous and always does a beautiful job in my opinion:clapping: . The other standouts were Jason Hartley, and Alvaro Palau - they were Romeo's sidekicks. I liked the trios that they did - they were very energetic and together! I also particularly enjoyed the trio of Kara Cooper, Maki Onuki, and Jonathon Jordan. They were a comical act and they looked like they were having fun which I like to be able to sense while watching ballet. I thought the company as a whole looked very nice. The corps members looked very well rehearsed.

To comment on the flat shoes instead of pointe - I agree that it is a bit out of the ordinary however it was nice not to have the extra noise of pointe shoes clunking around on stage!

I also believe that Jared is back in the company for good and will be dancing Romeo with Elizabeth Gaither.

As far as the noises coming from on/backstage, I couldn't hear them as in I was seated in row X( :rolleyes: ), however that isn't a good thing at all!



Edited by TinkerBeLLe31190
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Well, Michele has always been one of my favorite dancers (if not my favorite!) She is so graceful and you can tell that she just loves being on stage - which I love to see in a dancer. She also owns every part she plays. She gets inside of her character and she becomes a completely different person on stage. She is not just an amazing dancer, but an actress too! I wanted to cry during her emotional scenes where she drinks the poison and where she kills herself in the end :blush: . I just thought it was extremely moving!

I really enjoyed the energy that the men showed in their trio. All three: Alvaro, Jason, and Runqiao were very crisp and clean and they looked very strong. They work well together and they stayed right with each other the whole time!

Edited by TinkerBeLLe31190
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I attended last night's (Thursday) premiere. While I enjoyed the poignant drama & glorious pointework of Michele Jimenez' Juliet, I was rather underwhelmed by the production, as a whole.

Rungqiao Du was not at his usually-high technical level & under-acted as Romeo. There appeared to be zero rapport with his Juliet, at the dramatic level.

Jason Hartley's clownish antics as Mercutio were genuinely funny for the first five minutes. After that, his hammy puckering-up & 'kissing' of men wore thin, until he became quite unbearable. That didn't keep his fan-club in the audience from guffawing every tired move of his.

Kudos to Erin Mahoney's Lady Capulet, who truly moved the heart during the mourning scene for Tybalt. Powerful stuff!

While the sets are richly evocative of Renaissance Italy, most of the costumes -- particularly the black-and-orange ballgowns of the ladies -- are hideous & more appropriate to a junior high school Halloween dance. The ladies' tall & wide 'beehive' headdresses (correct for Renaissance costuming) are here so El-Cheapo looking, that they resemble those beige-paper folding Japanese lanterns that all of us used to buy during our graduate-student days.

On the other hand, 'bravo!' to whoever oversaw the makeup, which was absolutely perfect -- for once! -- on Michele Jimenez. That contributed a lot to the overall impression that she did not over-act, as in the past. Only the lips of the three harlots & the Commedia dell'Arte girls of Act II are bright red (appropriately so).

Supers & students gave it their 'all,' with energy to spare...but some of them were cued too early, so that we would see children just outside the wings (on stage) looking into the wings for the stage manager's cues. Oops...

Worst of all -- the choreography. For anyone who knows the beloved Lavrovsky, MacMillan or Cranko versions, Webre's non-sensical group dances, contorted poses of the Balcony pdd, or the non-comedic Commedia dell'Arte trio are a poor substitute for any of the aformentioned vintage productions of R&J. OK...I take that back....the big swordfight scene in Act II was masterfully choreographed in this production. Very, very realistically done.

The bundling together of Acts II and III made for a very long period without an intermission. Was the Washington Ballet trying to save on payment of overtime fees to its unions, I ask? Otherwise, it made absolutely no sense to run this long ballet with only one intermission.

The 2004/2005 Washington Ballet season began strongly with a memorable Giselle, last October, and a fine new Nutcracker in December. Alas, the new year has seen a marked downward trend -- the horrendous Rite of Spring in February & now this. We hope that the downward spiral can be plugged-up when the troupe presents its 'Unplugged' program in May, at the WB Studios.

Natalia Nabatova

p.s. - Above, the enthusiastic TinkerBeLLe asked what the rest of us think about next season's line-up. Here's my answer. I'm a subscriber who is likely to NOT renew. It's an under-ambitious line-up & marked step back for WB, in my opinion. Hopefully not down to the nadir of the late 1980s/early 90s...but the only full-evening-length novelty on tap for next season appears to be Wheeldon's Alice in Wonderland. Not one single traditional evening-length classic is on the bill. (I don't count the Nutcracker kiddie-fest.) Heck, not even a one-act, pre-WWI classic, such as Chopiniana or Paquita Grand Pas is on tap! Sorry; maybe I'm expecting too much from the main ballet troupe of the capital of the world's only Superpower Country.

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I saw the Saturday matinee with Laura Urgelles as Juliet, and Alvaro Palau as Romeo. Palau grinned like a horse the whole first half, but other than that I thought they danced well and it was a great pairing that emphasized the physical and dramatic aspects of their roles. I didn't get much of a sense of vulnerability/innocence/girlishness in Urgelles' Juliet, but her ardour made up for it. And the Balcony Scene was so good, with those amazing lifts...

Runqiao Du danced Tybalt this performance, an unannounced replacement for Brian Corman (hmm...) Du was a truly scary Tybalt, an amazing performance. I had not seen this side of Du before. Usually he dances the noble / romantic characters. I loved it because he put so much dark passion into this role... excellent.

Did anybody see the other casts? How did Bland/Jordan (Fri, Sun) and Gaither (Sat. eve.) do?

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I saw Sunday's matinee with Brianne Bland and Jonathan Jordan. Bland's dancing was crisp and compact, as always, and a pleasure to watch. She somehow packs a lot of dancing into a small space. She and Jordan didn't convey the "We're in love and we don't care who knows it" bliss that Jimenez and Du portrayed on Tuesday in the pdd -- rather, they always seemed a little worried about what they were getting into. A different, but reasonable, interpretation. She started out suitably innocent -- getting betrothed to boring old Paris (one hardly recognized the actually not-boring Chip Coleman) seemed like a pretty good idea to her at first - but she spurned him convincingly once she'd experienced the real thing.

Jordan's lifts made me nervous a couple of times.

Brian Corman was menacing and powerful as Tybalt. All the men's roles were energetically yet precisely danced, as other posters have mentioned. Top notch ensemble work by Romeo and his two buddies.

The street scenes and ball scenes were compelling - crisp and character-ful dancing going on wherever you look -- notably the commedia dell'arte troupe including Maki Onuki in their authentic-looking harlequin type costumes.

Overall a moving production that showcased very good dancing.

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