By: Yael Blau | Features  | 

A Beautifully Tragic Dance of Two Lovers

A few weeks ago,  the Stern Honors program went to the New York City Ballet’s performance of Romeo and Juliet. While the entire ballet was beautiful, the one aspect that truly stood out was the agility of the dancers. With each and every turn, spin, and dip, I was more and more amazed by the way the ballet dancers moved. They seemed to glide across the stage, and gravity did not constrain them. The men flipped the women upside down and around, as the women did splits in the air. Throughout every scene, it was clear that each dancer was incredibly talented.

The audience is first introduced to Romeo, played in this performance by Peter Walker, at the very beginning of the play along with his two friends who add a comical aspect to the ballet. Romeo is clothed in blue and is joined by other members of the Montagues, all wearing green. The red clad Capulets come on stage and subsequently have a dance battle against the Montagues.

The audience then meets Juliet, played by Erica Pereira. Juliet not only looks small and childlike, but she keeps running away from her maid and playing around, allowing us to truly understand just how young the character is. Her parents introduce her to Paris, played by Russell Janzen, the man they want her to marry. As she does not speak, she expresses herself by trying to refuse Paris’s offer to dance with him. Romeo and Juliet meet at the ball hosted in the Capulet home. Romeo is in disguise and is obsessed with Juliet the second he sees her, first watching her from afar and then moving onto the dance floor to dance with her. The two fall in love as they dance together. Tybalt, played by Sebastian Villarini-Velez, is Juliet’s cousin and realizes the masked figure is Romeo. He tries to make him leave, but Lord Capulet, played by Ask la Cour, lets him stay.

Due to the feud between Romeo’s and Juliet’s families, the lovestruck couple cannot be together in public. Their love flourishes as Romeo visits Juliet at night. Instead of Romeo calling to her and Juliet answering from on top of her balcony as is done in the play, she comes down and the two dance together as though they are one person. Juliet elegantly falls into Romeo’s arms and Romeo lifts Juliet effortlessly off the ground and high into the air. She leans back over his shoulder and they continue to smile at one another throughout the dance. They are both dressed in pastel colors, signifying the delicate and intimate moment. The music is sweet and almost dream-like, as the two express their love through dance.

After that one night together, Juliet is so invested in her relationship with Romeo that she sends him a letter asking him to marry her in secret. Romeo is hopelessly in love with Juliet and the two meet at a chapel, where they ultimately wed.

After they marry, Romeo and his friends encounter Tybalt. Tybalt tries to start a duel and Romeo tries to stop it. After Romeo’s friend is killed by Tybalt, Romeo kills Tybalt out of rage. As a result, Romeo is sentenced to leave. Throughout Romeo and Juliet’s next dance, Juliet beautifully portrays the conflicted emotions she feels, pulling Romeo close as she loves him, then pushing him away due to her sadness that he killed her cousin.  She runs to the edge of the stage, but Romeo comes and takes her hands, and pulls her in again. As conflicted as she feels, she does not want to lose him.

When Paris is presented to Juliet to be her husband, she refuses to dance with him, running between both of her parents and begging them not to make her marry him. Juliet hatches a plan to pretend to be dead, so that she will not have to marry Paris and can be with Romeo, instead. When Romeo sees her lifeless body, he drinks poison and kills himself. Juliet awakens to see Romeo dead, and cannot stand the thought of living without her lover, so she stabs herself. The music choice for this scene was brilliant, not melancholy, but almost sweet, as the two lovers were able to be united through death. Though Juliet dies a violent death, the music gives the audience a feeling of peace and closure.

One of the most fascinating aspects of this ballet was the way Romeo and Juliet were able to fall in love and express their feeling to the audience without any words. Their entire relationship is shown through the way they dance with one another. At the beginning of the play, she is intrigued by him and takes his hand, but their dance is very formal. When she dances with him that night, Romeo cannot stop putting his arms around her.  After Romeo kills Tybalt, Juliet shows her confused emotions when she pushes Romeo away as they dance, only to pull him back in again. Throughout the ballet, the audience is able to grasp just how in love the two are just by the way they dance with one another.

The story line is beautifully tragic, the dancing is elegant, and the music is so appropriate for each scene. For those hopeless romantics, this ballet is a must-see.