Ballet BC

Romeo + Juliet

Dates and Venue February 22- 24, 2018 at 8pm (preview performance on Wed February 21 at 8pm )| Queen Elizabeth Theatre

Choreographer Medhi Walerski Costume Design Medhi Walerski Set Design Theun Mosk Lighting Design James Proudfoot

Reviewer John Jane

William Shakespeare’s tragic tale of star-crossed lovers with an ill-conceived escape plan becomes a sweeping and beautifully invigorating performance for Ballet British Columbia. The talent of the principal protagonists was simply spell-binding. The story-telling is creatively crafted through Medhi Walerski’s choreography.

The former dancer with Paris Opera Ballet is new to the genre of full-length linear narrative ballet, but it seems to suit his style. Brandon Alley (Romeo) and Emily Chessa (Juliet) are both outstanding interpreters who each excelled in conveying the pain and pleasure of the iconic love story.

In its basic elements this production remains essentially faithful to Shakespeare’s storyline. Though, as might be expected, it’s in the narrative style that it differs so markedly from the original telling.

Choreographer Walerski , who also takes responsibility for the original concept and costume design, replaces Shakespeare’s dense dialogue with dramatic dance vocabulary and an aesthetic with a distinct proclivity towards the sensuality. His choreography juxtaposes extreme passion and malevolent feuding. Medhi Walerski’s dance vocabulary may lack the intricate syntax of some other classical choreographers, but it more than compensates with eye-catching evocative movement.

The ballet begins in the Montague house with dancers costumed in varying shades of grey. In a subsequent scene in the Capulet’s estate the dancers are dressed in stark black. Only Juliet in a small white dress and her nurse attired in a black and grey checkers on a hooped dress are distinguished from the ‘family.’

Brandon Alley and Emily Chessa are a tour-de-force together, showing remarkable chemistry as the ill-fated, teenage lovers. Their balcony sequence in the first act provided moments of enchanting intimacy.

Dancers in some of the other key roles acquitted themselves ably. Gilbert Small offers an athletic and intentionally menacing performance as Tybalt. His arrogance and penchant for violence produces temporal tension. Scott Fowler as Mercutio and Patrick Kilbane as Benvolio turn in excellent athletic performances. Alexis Fletcher as Juliet’s nurse wasn’t required to execute conventional dance steps, but displayed extraordinary movement around the stage.

The production uses André Previn’s seventies reading of Sergei Prokofiev's ballet score of Romeo and Juliet. This version is no longer the benchmark standard of this suite (not sure if it ever was). Valery Gergiev’s more recent interpretation, also with the London Symphony Orchestra, is both technically and musically superior.

© 2018 John Jane