Dance Review: ROMÉO ET JULIETTE / ROMEO AND JULIET (Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo)

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by Jacob Lansky on May 4, 2022

in Dance,Theater-International,Tours


Les Ballets de Monte Carlo made a rare appearance in Southern California on April 15-17, 2022, with four performances of Roméo et Juliette, Jean-Christophe Maillot’s innovative 1996 version of Sergei Prokofiev’s iconic ballet, performed at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts. In Maillot’s retelling, William Shakespeare’s tale of star-crossed lovers is presented in flashbacks experienced by Friar Laurence, whose good intentions ultimately provoke their demise.

Maillot’s athletic choreography is on full display in the two-hour work, first premiered in December 1996, and each member of the corps de ballet is given his or her own (secondary) role, allowing them to showcase their individuality through actions unique to them. Also notable is the prominence his narrative accords to the female characters: Rosalind (aka Romeo’s first love), Lady Capulet, Juliet, and her Nurse. Although the father figures are absent in this version, other male characters are given plenty of stage time, starting with Romeo, Mercutio, and Benvolio in the action-packed street scenes; Tybalt and Paris at the Capulets’ ball; and, of course, during the climactic Act Two scuffle between the two rival “gangs.”

Maillot’s style is neither purely classical nor exclusively contemporary. To paraphrase his teacher Rosella Hightower, he likes to create “a union of opposites”: a dialogue in which the on-pointe tradition and the avant-garde are no longer mutually exclusive. Southern California audiences may remember his remarkable productions of Cinderella and LAC (a fresh take on Swan Lake) previously seen at the same Costa Mesa venue.

For Roméo et Juliette, the streamlined stage design by Ernest Pignon-Ernest employs ramps and fluidly moving pieces of scenery to delineate the action, which is presented using such cinematic techniques as slow motion and freeze-frame, each scene strikingly lit by Dominique Drillot. Among the visual highlights is the use of a long scarlet ribbon to indicate blood in the last scene, and the image of a large crucifix projected on the wall of the crypt.

At the April 16 performances, standouts among the two hardworking casts, attractively costumed by Jérôme Kaplan, were Katrin Schrader (matinee) as a shy yet resilient Juliet, Laura Tisserand (evening) as a stern Lady Capulet, and Taisha Barton-Rowledge (matinee) as the playful Nurse on the distaff side, along with Francesco Resch (matinee) as an exuberant Romeo, Michaël Grünecker (matinee) as a fleet-footed Mercutio, Matèj Urban (evening) as a tormented Friar Laurence, and Alvaro Prieto (matinee) as a darkly menacing Tybalt.

photos courtesy of Les Ballets de Monte Carlo

Romeo and Juliet
Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo
Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, 600 Town Center Drive in Costa Mesa
reviewed on April 16, 2022
for tickets, call (714) 556-2787 or visit SCFTA
for more info, visit Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo

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