San Francisco Ballet, the oldest professional ballet company in the country, wins hearts over with their classical version of Romeo & Juliet. The age-old story is set again the backdrop of sweeping scene changes and grandiose dancing. Countless versions of Romeo & Juliet have been told but Artistic Director and Principal Choreographer Helgi Tomasson’s rendition is a satisfying experience that will have you reliving the Shakespearean original on a grand scale.
From the very beginning the tone is set. The Capulet family wears red while the Montague family sports blue. We are soon introduced to the principal roles. Certain characters stand out immediately. Mercutio, danced by Gennadi Nedvigin — dear friend of Romeo’s — is boisterous and playful, almost dangerous on the stage with his unpredictable jaunt. When we first meet Juliet, danced by Maria Kochetkova, she is light as a feather — elegant and simple. She moves with unending grace throughout the entire production. Romeo, danced by Joan Boada, is full of life and verve.
On the costume front, certain characters have extra touches, such as Tybalt, danced by Daniel Deivison, nephew of Capulet, who wears a dazzling red and black top that evokes a fiery energy. The set and costume design by Jens-Jacob Worsaae illustrate the setting and time of the Italian Renaissance in Verona, Italy. The magnificent changing sets between scenes bring about both wonderful and dark moods: from the lush festivities of the ball at the House of Capulet to the spare and serious environment of Friar Laurence’s Chapel. The lighting, designed by Thomas R. Skelton, is dramatic at every turn. The costumes were most buoyant at the party scene where ever shade of orange and red was represented.
The color and energy on stage draws us in to the clear division that is central to the story. We witness the tension that only grows as the plot thickens. Will love rise above the dueling families? Luckily, it takes us just a few fight scenes to arrive at the answer.
The fight scenes were exceptional. Without the Shakespearean dialogue, the movement is everything. Choreographed by Martino Pistone in collaboration with Tomasson, the movement was highly thought out with every jab and counter attack carefully placed. The excitement was palpable and the music of Sergei Prokofiev entirely complementary.
It’s always impressive to experience a production of this size. Tomasson’s creation is a testament to an art form that is well alive and very loved. Tomasson has been with the company since 1985 and this production first premiered in March 1994. Tomasson’s choreography combined with the sounds of Prokofiev’s composition is epic. It’s a thrill to see the myriad pieces of the performance working harmoniously from music, choreography, scene design, lighting to costumes.
As an audience we are transported into a story that has lived for centuries. The most relished details of the production are in the dancing. We don’t have the fortune of experiencing the nuances of each character or the language — instead we have exaggerated gestures and massive turning points. As the characters approached their fate in the third act, the tension on stage became more and more sublime. Kochetkova and Boada dance their final bittersweet pas de duex in Juliet’s chambers.
The energy of Romeo & Juliet is delightful. What is lost without dialogue is gained in the impressive movement of these highly trained dancers. Like a silent film or a photograph with empty space the audience is asked to use a whole other part of their imagination. This audience was thrilled and flung up at first opportunity to applaud Kochetkova and Boada, as well as the entire cast of performers.
Running Time: Two hours and forty minutes with two intermissions. The first intermission is 20 minutes, the second is 15.
The San Francisco Ballet dances through Sunday, November 18, 2012 at The Kennedy Center’s Opera House – 2700 F Street, NW, in Washington, DC. For tickets, call the box office at (202) 467-4600 or (800) 444-1324, or purchase them online.