Romeo and Juliet: ABT at its Best

Isabella Boylston and David Hallberg danced with great passion and vigor in a wonderful American Ballet Theatre Romeo and Juliet performance Saturday evening. The pair was imbued with giddy love, displayed with great joy and affection. In the beginning, Isabella captured the immaturity of the young Juliet, repelled by her young suitor Paris (Blaine Hoven). In the third act, Juliet was shaken by her father’s demand to marry Paris as she defiantly resisted his boorish behavior. David was an impetuous young lover with a single-minded focus: Juliet. The raw intensity of his love for Juliet was a high point of the performance.

The supporting cast was particularly strong, starting with Jeffrey Cirio as Mercutio. His was the best Mercurtio that I have seen in a while. Jeffrey was fully in control, with nice turns and high leaps. Dancing with such substantial confidence and authority allowed him to interact with the crowd. His dramatic touches in his death scene projected throughout the cavernous Met Opera House. A great performance from Jeffrey. I always love the Pas de Trois with Romeo and his two friends (Calvin Royal III was Benvolio, well danced), although I thought the dance was more in synch Thursday. Thomas Forster portrayed Tybalt effectively as a temperamental figure.

I’ve seen ABT’s Kenneth MacMillan version of Romeo and Juliet many times but the great nuance and detail of the work keep me coming back. With all of the complexity and dynamic action, it seems fresh after many viewings. There is much going on in the ballroom and town scenes and the interaction between the dancers, particularly the three Harlots, demands attention. From the opening of the curtain showing the brilliant morning glow of sun rays hitting the village square in Verona, it is a masterpiece of storytelling. The Saturday evening performance was a prime example of what ABT does best: ballet theater.

Stella Abrera and James Whiteside, Romeo and Juliet

Stella Abrera and James Whiteside, Romeo and Juliet. Click for more photos.

Thursday: Stella Abrera’s Juliet Met Debut

Stella Abrera’s Juliet Met debut Thursday in Romeo and Juliet was a special performance with Stella showing her sweeping dramatic range. Starting from a young, playful little girl who gasped in amazement when the nurse pointed out her developing physique to a heavy scene as she refused to marry Paris as her parents threatened to disown her, Stella was a convincing Juliet. Other dramatic touches embellished her Juliet: her quizzical look at Paris, a wealthy young nobleman who has asked for her hand in marriage as if to say “who is this guy?”; her outsized expression of joy when she encountered Romeo when he suddenly appeared outside her balcony; her frantic desperation as she tried to escape her father’s clutches when she refused to marry Paris (true to Shakespeare, in the MacMillan version, Lord Capulet does not strike her, unlike the original Peter Martins’ version). An outstanding performance from Stella. It is unfortunate that she was not given the Juliet opportunity many years ago.

I enjoyed James Whiteside’s portrayal of Romeo…from his neck down. He had the steps down with nice extensions, controlled leaps and turns including a nice diagonal of seven saute de basques. However, what make for a less than convincing portrayal was his facial expressions, starting from a goofy grin when he first encountered Juliet in the ballroom. At times he evinced odd looks resembling a grimace, making it difficult for me to believe in his Romeo.

Arron Scott was Mercutio and Luis Ribagorda was Benvolio, dancing a well synchronized Pas de Trois with Whiteside in Act I, with each step aligned by the three. Very nice. Arron had a reasonable degree of authority in his ballroom dance. His death scene from Tybalt’s stabbing was dramatic and well done. Alexandre Hammoudi was a moody Tybalt, danced with great passion.