The Joffrey Ballet’s Romeo & Juliet. Photo by Cheryl Mann
Beyond The 805
The Joffrey Ballet’s Romeo & Juliet performed at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion is a dynamic, contemporary take on the classic ballet. From the various costumes and settings spanning the 1930s, 1950s, and 1990s to the contemporary twists to the ballet choreography, watching Joffrey Ballet’s Romeo & Juliet is a refreshing and captivating experience.
As the curtain rises, archival footage projects onto the background through the frozen dancers, showing black and white video clips from the 1930s, a nice touch to set the scene historically that’s used throughout the show as the decades jump. When the lights go up and the dancing begins, the bustle of the scene has stark contrasts - black and white of the costumes; sharp structured movements of the Capulets versus the energetic, passionate gestures of the Montagues. The Capulets military-like movements along with the costuming really emulate the representation of dictatorship the show synopsis suggests. The contemporary elements of the choreography help bolster the passionate atmosphere that is set up - feuding families, forbidden love, and high tensions.
Right off the bat, Yoshihisa Aria as Mercutio stands out - full of character and energy, his antics with Temur Suluashvili as Tybalt, combined with beautiful lines, catch your eye immediately and set up the audience to feel the full force of the heartbreak to come later in the story.
Yoshihisa Arai, Rory Hohenstein, and Alberto Velazquez in The Joffrey Ballet’s Romeo & Juliet. Photo by Cheryl Mann
Christine Rocas as Juliet appears - a perfect picture of innocent youth. Her facial expressions along with her delicate but powerful dancing embody Juliet precisely. The relationships between Juliet and her mother (April Daly) and with her friends (Amanda Assucena & Jeraldine Mendoza) are immediately apparent - loving but duty-bound for the former and close and playful for the latter.
The formidable Fabrice Calmels appears as Capulet, his powerful movements and precise execution establishing him well as the head of the strict family. After Rory Hohenstein as Romeo sees Juliet for the first time, the instant attraction plays out in a push and pull weave through the ball as the two are drawn toward each other, Tybalt attempts to interfere, and Mercutio clashes with Tybalt once again in defense of his friend. Eventually this attraction between Romeo and Juliet culminates in a sweet pas de deux full of the giddiness of young love. The significance of the touch of each other’s face with a hand is highlighted here, a gesture brought throughout the performance as a clear and intimate sign of affection and an example of a choreography element used to its fullest in aiding the storytelling.
Something that stands out is the duets between the men - the willingness to do intricate, entangling movements between those such as Mercutio and Tybalt allow for more involved interactions, especially when it comes to the fighting. The physical “fights” between Mercutio and Tybalt are full of action and energy, while still maintaining dance choreography and not crossing over into stage fighting. The choreography also utilizes stillness to great effect - taking long moments of no movement for dramatic effect.
Christine Rocas as Juliet in The Joffrey Ballet’s Romeo & Juliet. Photo by Cheryl Mann
The incredible acting abilities of the dancers while still maintaining technical prowess is even more evident in Act III. Between the desperation of Juliet in trying to avoid the set-up matchmaking to her mother’s battle between love and duty to Romeo’s guilt and passions, the emotions are so clear and raw that one could almost overlook how technically sound the dancing is that bolsters it. This culminates in the famous final death scenes - Christine and Rory both exhibit devastating grief with their expressive movements to the audience’s heartache; along with the dynamic choreography, it’s hard to take your eyes off the stage.
Overall, the emotive movements and incredible acting of the dancers of The Joffrey Ballet’s Romeo & Juliet create an engaging and powerful story - elevated further by the creative choreography of Krzysztof Pastor that utilizes more contemporary movements to help express the deep passions that fuel the story of Romeo & Juliet. The addition of significant time eras brought throughout the story through the projected images and well-designed costumes add a deep connection and thoughtfulness to the classic story of love and passion, all of it combining in a thought-provoking and emotionally touching performance.
The Joffrey Ballet's Romeo & Juliet
Choreographer by Krzysztof Pastor
Music by Sergei Prokofiev
Original set and costume design by Tatyana Van Walsum
Lighting Design byBert Dalhuysen
The Music Center’s Dorothy Chandler Pavilion
135 N. Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90012
Saturday, March 17, 2018, 2:00 p.m. & 7:30 p.m.