Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

June 25, 2011

Ballet Genève “Romeo and Juliet”

Jacob’s Pillow, Becket, MA
through June 25, 2011
by Stacie Beland & Mark Axelson

It is hard to re-imagine a storybook ballet as well known as “Romeo and Juliet.” Like it or not, visuals of schmaltzy sets and lavish costumes are what typically come to mind. Perhaps that’s why Ballet du Grand Theatre de Genève chose to strip down their sets and costumes. What’s left is the raw and visceral emotion, the powerful dynamics that push and pull the title characters to their ultimate end. It is a beautifully surprising production.

Joèlle Bouvier’s choreography often gives more to look at than the human brain can process, filling the stage with rich, textured dancing.  Rèmi Nicolas and Jacqueline Bosson’s bare set design, which includes a moveable curved structure, is perfect. Dancers of this level of talent negate the need for a set, particularly as they fill in alternatively as people and structures. Costuming by Philippe Combeau allows the production to remain timeless, as it should be.

Dancing as Juliet, Madeline Wong plays the role with the perfect mix of girlishness, innocence, grace, and strength. At times, it seemed as though Wong was slightly hesitant in her movement, as if she hadn’t received enough rehearsal time on the unfamiliar stage. Regardless, her performance was wonderful, the perfect counterpart for Damiano Artale’s Romeo. Artale’s dancing is filled with emotion and character.  Each of their duets, from their meeting to their demise, is riveting. Bouvier’s choreography utilizes eye contact and body distance to demonstrate the role the two families play in the tragedy; themes of manipulation, relationships, and closeness are beautifully illustrated. The fight scenes, which are truly a sight to behold, showcase the sleek athleticism of Nathanael Marie (Mercutio) and Loris Bonani (Tybalt).

The production is re-visualized as raw, violent, angry, and sorrowful. Despite some technical issues (most surrounding the curved set piece, which was moved somewhat clumsily at times), the production is a joy. Jacob’s Pillow is known for bringing top-notch contemporary and modern companies to the Berkshires, and this is no exception. Running at 90 minutes with no intermission, the show seems only moments long.