Deathless love comes to life

Ballet Jorgen’s superb Romeo & Juliet dazzles Halifax audience

One of Shakespeare’s greatest works was brought to life Wednesday night in Halifax as Toronto’s Ballet Jorgen performed the classic romantic tragedy Romeo & Juliet at the Rebecca Cohn Auditorium.

Performed without the author’s penned words, the ballet brought forth the story’s essential elements through expressive pantomime and choreography executed with professional skill.

So there was no line stating that “Juliet is the sun,” but Saniya Abilmajineva certainly shone in this role. To speak of how seamless and smooth her dancing was would take this whole review. Her pique turns were perfect, her coupes cut the air and her grand jetes were a single airborne line.

Abilmajineva’s acting was also exceptional; the character’s introduction was coy and cute, and her transition from childhood after experiencing the effects of love and sorrow for the first time was alarming.

Hiroto Saito danced the role of Romeo, and the two showed their true talent toward the end of the show when Romeo carried Juliet’s comatose corpse and the dancers have to deal with her dead weight. Though actually very athletically demanding, the two made it look effortless.

Symphony Nova Scotia performed composer Sergei Prokofiev’s pieces. The live music drove the performance, allowing the dancers to feed off the mutual artistic passion. The highly varied score added fluidity to the show and an artistic element that complemented the simple stage set.

A row of arched columns alluded to the setting of Verona, Italy. Figures cloaked in black capes would reposition pieces of the flexible set when changing scenes. Sometimes a company member would weave amongst the pillars, portraying the act of travelling to a new location.

A sheer white curtain attached to the top of the column proved to be particularly useful in a scene where Juliet battles her conscience. After given the fateful potion from the friar, Juliet’s deceased cousin Tybalt, her cruel mother Lady Capulet and her beloved Romeo all floated through slits in its screen to show her stream of frenzied thoughts as she dances.

The costumes, designed by Gary Dahms, added colour to characters and added shape to choreography. The Montagues and townsfolk wore simple tunics or loose empire-waisted gowns in pale earthen hues. The Capulets were draped in rich velvet robes in shades of red, with orange or black hints. These were heavy and hid a lot of the dancers’ movements, but the circular gowns did glide across the floor.

Juliet’s main clothing consisted of a simple white nightgown showing off Abilmajineva’s girlish figure and elongating her lines. Two other gowns made appearances, both glittering gold. These were short and flowing, compared to the long ornate gowns of Lady Capulet.

Dartmouth’s own Hannah Mae Cruddas danced this role and was contorted into a cruel character the opposite of her natural presence. While she shared the stage throughout the show, she came into the spotlight while in a fury of grief, unfurling her fiery red hair and shaking her fists skyward upon learning of Tybalt’s death.

In the program, Bengt Jorgen, the artistic director, CEO and choreographer, wrote: “The journey, as two lovers unite against a mother’s defiance, is in the end, I hope, a story more pure than it is dark.”

If this was Jorgen’s mission, it was accomplished. The ending did not relay the sorrowful tragedy that concludes Shakespeare’s most famous play, with Juliet obviously taking her own life, but the purity of the love between the leading characters was relayed every time the two locked eyes.



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