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Colorado Ballet: Romeo and Juliet

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I saw three of the four performances this weekend of Colorado Ballet's Romeo and Juliet. They use Derek Deane's choreography, which was originally created in the round for English National Ballet in 1999 and was restaged for a proscenium stage for the Pittsburgh Ballet Theater in 2017: https://www.pbt.org/the-company/artistic/repertoire/romeo-and-juliet-2/

Colorado Ballet performed this version in 2018 and its return now was very welcome as everyone recovers from pandemic doldrums. The costumes are the same as those used by ENB. The sets for this production are truly gorgeous, designed by Roberta di Bagno Guidi. All have been borrowed from PBT. The sets feature beautifully detailed medieval tapestry designs throughout, to underscore the distant history of the story.  Instead of a traditional curtain, we see seven vertical panels with tapestry designs which are ingeniously raised and lowered throughout for various scene changes and tableaus. I had trouble finding images on-line of the sets.  The  image linked above shows just one of the many gorgeous tapestry sets.

I see that around the country this ballet is becoming to February/Valentine's Day what Nutcracker is to December. Except for ABT, the others all use choreography by someone other than MacMillan, which unavoidably hovers in the mind, especially for such important passages as the balcony pas de deux and the final PdD in the tomb. Deane's choreography is eminently serviceable and the partnering is often challenging and interesting. I am also fascinated by group scenes that seem to have retained their in-the-round roots.  And with the glorious Prokofiev score performed by a full orchestra, it's hard not to retain interest.

With such a large cast, let me single out just a few of special note:

  • Yosvani Ramos, now 41 and having recovered from some serious injuries, is in fine form as Romeo. He was relatively new with this company for the 2018 performances and also performed it with ENB long ago.
  • Dana Benton was Ramos' Juliet. She is celebrating her 20th year with the company. Both are reliable audience favorites.
  • Mario Labrador had been announced earlier in the week for two performances of Romeo, but he was replaced with a last-minute announcement by Chris Moulton, a long-time company soloist. I was very disappointed not to see Labrador, a new hire just promoted to principal last fall.  He is scheduled for one performance next weekend, but I'll be in San Francisco for their opening programs.  Moulton has been with the company since 2010 and a soloist since 2017. This was no last-minute substitution. He had not been scheduled at all for the eight-performance run but obviously had worked out detailed nuances in the presentation, technique, and partnering. His height and stately presence were perfect for this role and it was nice to see him given this opportunity.
  • Jennifer Grace, another brand-new principal, new to the company, was Juliet, originally scheduled with Labrador and instead dancing with Moulton at both matinees. She was exquisite in her nuanced interpretation and delicate performance throughout. 
  • Nicolas Pelletier and Sarah Tryon took the leads at the Thursday matinee performance for students (which I did not see) and one more next weekend. They were also third cast in 2018.
  • Jonnathan Ramirez, another new hire promoted to principal last fall, alternated between Mercutio and Tybalt.  He was a delightful, impish Mercutio, one of the juiciest roles in this ballet.
  • Kevin Gael Thomas, long-time soloist, made a welcome debut as Mercutio. Although there were no opportunities for his trademarked Revoltade, he nicely conquered the technical and acting challenges.
  • Asuka Sasaki, returning from maternity leave, was Rosaline, a minor role that let her ease back into performing. She was a sensation as Kitri and Sugar Plum Fairy in 2019 before the pandemic shut down, but with a partner no longer with the company (the greatly missed Francisco Estevez). I hope she is able to find a partner this year appropriate for her many strengths. I have to wonder if the company has plans to pair her with her husband, Chris Moulton, after his very successful performances as Romeo.
  • Children: This production uses eight young students from the Academy in both market scenes. As with the Nutcracker last December, they were all masked, but it was not at all intrusive and seemed a reasonable precaution to allow them to perform.

COVID precautions: The City of Denver lifted mandatory indoor masking requirements just last Friday. But the Denver Center for the Performing Arts (home to the Colorado Ballet, Opera Colorado, plays, and travelling Broadway shows) quickly announced that they are staying with the requirements in place since last September, viz., proof of vaccination and indoor masking. They are not requiring the KN95, as San Francisco is doing, but I note that many of us use those anyway. As these audiences are generally older and more cautious, I think these are reasonable requirements and no one seems to be complaining about them. Needless to say in this blue state, there are no bans on indoor masking or vaccination requirements as I hear about in other cities.

This Instagram posting includes some examples of the gorgeous tapestry sets:


Edited by California
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