Opus Colorado

The Colorado Ballet creates a transcendental Romeo and Juliet

Once in a while, and it is rare, I have seen performances that were so wonderfully incredible that I simply could not take any notes. These are performances where I have simply been drawn into whatever event is in progress on the stage, whether it is a ballet, symphony, chamber music, or a solo artist. At events like these, I find it impossible to think about what I will write concerning the performance, and I simply wallow in the artistry that is on stage. I have had considerable performance experience myself during my concertising lifetime, and I always hoped that any critic reviewing one of my performances would become as awestruck as I was at the Saturday matinee performance of the Colorado Ballet’s Romeo and Juliet. 

There is no doubt in my mind that this performance by the Colorado Ballet was the finest that I have ever seen them give. What was so amazing was the companionship (there is no other word for it) between the dancers and the orchestra. Maestro Adam Flatt was clearly moved by the music and his love for it, and not only did he communicate that to the orchestra, but to the dancers as well, and the dancers in turn, communicated their love for their art and for the music back to Maestro Flatt. The result, quite literally, was the melding of artistic purpose and joy, the likes of which I have not seen for several years. 

Gil Boggs, the Artistic Director of the Colorado Ballet, deserves unlimited credit for holding together such a remarkable dance company. In past reviews of the Colorado Ballet, I have said that every single dancer in the entire company could be a soloist. But in this performance, the company did not simply “dance” there respective roles. Caitlin Valentine-Ellis did not dance Juliet. She was Juliet. Viacheslav Buchkovskiy did not “dance” Romeo. He became Romeo. Sayaka Karasugi and Gregory K. Gonzales were Lord and Lady Capulet, complete with their arrogance and expectation that things should go their way, and yet they often displayed kindness as well. Every person on the stage, whether it was Jesse Marks, Igor Vassine, Christopher Ellis, Elizabeth Shipiatsky, Ron Marriott, Kevin Aydelotte, Eric Cedarlund, Sonja Davenport, or any of the other soloists or corps members were remarkable in their portrayal of intense emotion, joyful or sad, as well as the character that Shakespeare and the composer, Sergei Prokofiev, were presenting. And there are so many names that I did not mention: Faith Madison, Sally Turkel, Cara Cooper, Casey Dalton, Asuka Sasaki, Dana Benton, Sean Omandam, Greg DeSantis, Morgan Schifano, and you see, there are just too many to name. But you must understand how excellent every single one of this company is. 

The only possible criticism that I could have has nothing to do with the performance. It just seems to me, that the Choreographer, in this case the illustrious Alun Jones, and the repetiteur, Helen Starr, should be listed in the front of the program with everyone else. Alun Jones was born in Wales and made his debut as a dancer with the Welsh National Opera, dancing in La Traviata, Faust, and May Night. After several positions as Associate Artistic Director, he was named Artistic Director to the Louisville Ballet in 1978, a position he held until 2002. He has choreographed over 30 ballets, including two of Prokofiev’s: Cinderella and Romeo and Juliet

And now it is time for a quiz! How many of you know what a repetiteur is? You know that the choreographer is the person who writes – composes – the steps that the dancers dance, and the repetiteur is the individual responsible for rehearsing and staging the ballets. But, the repetiteur also makes sure that the dancers are dancing exactly what the choreographer composed. Can you imagine how well that individual must know the choreography? Ms. Helen Starr, the repetiteur for Romeo and Juliet, was trained at the Royal Academy of Dance in England, and she has toured extensively with them throughout the entire world. And after joining the London Festival Ballet she was made the principal dancer and has danced the lead roles in several ballets since then. 

And one other very small quibble. The program misspelled repetiteur. Personally, I would be thrilled to death to be hired by the Colorado Ballet just to teach French! 

There are so many moments in this performance that stand out in my mind. In the opening act, the dislike shared by the Capulets and the Montagues did not resemble acting. It seemed to be absolutely genuine. Eric Cedurlund appeared to be accustomed to having his orders obeyed when, as Prince of Verona, he commanded that the feud between the two families must end. 

And of course, the famous balcony scene where Romeo and Juliet meet in secret and declare their love for each other was full of astonishing emotion. The Colorado Ballet, and I mean this most sincerely, is the only company that I have ever seen that is so successful in portraying so many different kinds of emotion by so many different members of the company. There were members of the audience sitting around me who had tears flowing down their cheeks just from the sheer joy of seeing Romeo and Juliet declare their love for each other. And I assure you, there were many scenes in this ballet where the audience had tears flowing down their cheeks. And there is one other thing that all you readers need to understand. That is that the music written by Sergei Prokofiev is one of the best scores, in my opinion, that he ever composed. The music surrounds the dancers and the audience with its emotional fragrance, and it leaves nothing to the imagination. For example, as the guests arrive for the ball in the first act the music reflects that the Capulets are very rich indeed, and also very aware of their place in the society of Verona. And Alun Jones made sure that as the family members proceeded, their arrogance and knowledge of their station in life was made clear to all of those less advantaged, and to the audience as well. 

In Act Two, when the young lovers approach Friar Lawrence to ask him to marry them, one can easily sense through Ron Marriott ‘s acting ability, that he is not sure that he should grant their request, but eventually does so because he recognizes their love, and because he hopes that their union will bring about an end to the rivalry between the two families. 

At the end of Act Two, when the good natured Mercutio is killed, in the agonies of his death, he is convincing, as he tries to pretend for the benefit of his friends, that nothing is amiss and that he is not really hurt. What an incredibly heartrending scene this is. 

But over all, in the second act, one is so strongly moved by the consummate acting ability of Caitlin Valentine-Ellis and Viacheslav Buchkovskiy. One becomes pulled into their lives; their dancing ability was as incredible as their acting. And I don’t understand to this day how a dancer can do a bouree step as fast as Caitlin Valentine-Ellis did on Saturday, either forwards or backwards, while she smiles all the time. 

In Act Three, both Romeo and Juliet understand that he has been banished from Verona and he must leave. The duet that they dance is one of the most poignant in the entire ballet. Juliet realizes Romeo must leave her, but she tries to delay it for as long as she can. And once again, tears flowed in the audience. 

Even if one does not know the story of Romeo and Juliet, when Friar Lawrence gives the sleeping potion to Juliet, one can begin to visualize the outcome of this tragic story, where a deep sleep is mistaken for death. Romeo, believing Juliet is dead, drinks poison and dies. Juliet awakens and finds Romeo dead beside her. She takes his dagger and stabs herself, and in one of the most tragic and effective scenes of any ballet that I have seen, she tries to reach his hand, stretched out in death, but dies before she can grasp it.

For so many reasons, this ballet is one of the most beautiful ever written. It seems a little redundant to make that statement because Shakespeare’s play and Prokofiev’s music have been addressed before. The Colorado Ballet presented a perfect performance, where dance, music, and drama were astoundingly well combined and presented. The company, Gil Boggs, and Maestro Adam Flatt, are here in Denver, and that is astounding as well.

1 Comment so far
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Can’t agree more with Robin McNeil – Colorado Ballet is a wonderful company with many talented dancers. Saw this performance and it was just wonderful. Bravo Gil Boggs and his artistic staff.

Comment by Patricia Sublime Valentine

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