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The Survivor

Pacific Northwest Ballet's 'Roméo et Juliette'

by Dean Speer

September 26, 2009 -- McCaw Hall, Seattle

Being a survivor means a lot of things. Feelings at once of relief, joy yet mingled with guilt at perhaps being left behind or of not being able to do enough -- or anything -- to help those who needed it the most.
I can only imagine what it must have been like for Friar Laurence to have not only been witness to tragic and historic events but to also have been a key player in them. Pacific Northwest Ballet's contemporary version of "Roméo et Juliette" sees these events through his eyes in a series of flashbacks, sometimes commenting on the action either as it unfolds in front of him or after it's happened.

I've had some challenges wrapping my head around Maillot's choreography and have come to the conclusion that while it's not romantic in its sweep and nature, it does clearly express the feelings of the protagonists quite well. Having re-tooled myself, I see this work as a different kind of ballet -- bold in its expression; a kind of palette painted with vibrant hues rather than Northwest bland. It is cinematic in presentation and scope, playing itself out like a film with its scenes connected by the Friar.

At its center are the two from opposing houses -- the superb Carla Körbes as Juliette and, in excellent dramatic form, Lucien Postlewaite. These two really sparked and played off each other, coloring their interpretations as they wouldn't with other partners. This is one of the joys of seeing different casts -- each bring their own jackets of knowledge and sense of expression to their dancing roles. The standing ovation and cheers they received were certainly well-deserved.

Newly promoted to the rank of principal, Karel Cruz danced the role of the Friar with his usual clean technique and strength, imbuing it with Martha Graham like dramatic flair and deep intensity.

Wicked power is how Juliette's mother is portrayed, and Ariana Lallone brought all of her majesty and might that clearly showed the angst and fury and perhaps a bit of madness. Very raw emotions barely under the surface when she is in control and someone to stay clear of when not.

Maillot ends his version, not with the houses "agreeing to disagree" as in some but with the deaths of Juliette and Roméo. Raw, unadulterated.
Aided and abetted by the fabulous Prokofiev score, PNB's acquisition and repeat this season is a force to be reckoned with...and one that brought in full houses, much media attention and which will inspire future dancers.

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