Friday, November 18, 2011

Bleeding Love - Romeo and Juliet & Love Lies Bleeding - Ballet Reviews

Romeo and Juliet - National Ballet of Canada - Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts - Toronto, ON - ***1/2 (out of 5 stars)
Choreographed by Alexei Ratmansky, Music by Sergei Prokofiev
Runs until Nov. 27th 2011

Love Lies Bleeding - Alberta Ballet - Sony Centre for the Performing Arts - Toronto, ON - * (out of 5 stars)
Choreographed by Jean Grand Maitre, Music by Elton John

A brand new version of Romeo and Juliet has made its world premiere at the National Ballet, with hot young choreographer Alexei Ratmansky giving us his new vision of the classic tale. With the classic music of Prokofiev, Ratmansky has created a brand new ballet with new sets and costumes by Richard Hudson and a choreography that blends a touch of contemporary moves with more traditional Russian techniques.

The Alberta Ballet, which last brought their The Fiddle and the Drum to Toronto via the National Ballet, has taken their current populist project Love Lies Bleeding around Canada in a small tour. A ballet set to the music of Sir Elton John and Bernie Taupin detailing the life of Elton John via dance, there has been a lot of buzz going for it, but sadly disappoints.

The new Romeo and Juliet looks like a 70's modern take on the traditional Renaissance, with overly tall sets that use monochromatic muted colours in the sets and costumes, making it look like an old children's picture book come to life. It's a bold choice, since it looks dated already, but gives the story a fairytale feeling.

With the Montagues and Capulets not identified by a division of colours, the ensemble dances can seem confusing, but the leads easily stand out, while little story book moments seem to pepper the background. And with leads Guillaume Côté and Elena Lobsanova (for opening night, as the cast rotates through the performances), there's a romantic whimsy between the two dancers that clearly deserve full attention.

Guillaume Côté, as always, is a wonderful romantic lead. Pairing him with Elena Lobsanova, who seems delicate and wistful, truly gives this tale of teenagers in love a youthful and romantic charge. Lobsanova's dancing is strong yet light and airy (though she did take a tiny tumble on opening night but got right back up and continued as if nothing happened). The pas-de-deux under the balcony scene lets the two dancers beautifully charm each other (and us). Every moment these two get to dance with each other alone, there's a romantic air that cannot be manufactured, though with some help from Ratmansky's choreography.

Ramansky also gets to be more playful with the boys here, with some adorably humour choreography of Romeo, Benvolio (the always wonderful Robert Stephen) and Mercutio (Piotr Stanczyk). The three are given dances that truly show their bond together with Piotr Stanczyk giving a tour-de-force performance that explains Mercutio's loyalty (and his cheeky humour).

Jirí Jelinek is given some anger laced choreography as Tybalt and gives a great nemesis performance. Lorna Geddes is sweet and divine as the Nurse, while Rebekah Rimsay and Stephanie Hutchison are delightful as the Prostitutes.

This new production has some absolutely wonderful moments, but also seems to float along the fairytale line, making it a pleasant affair, but never quite reaches the dramatic emotional heights the story lends itself to.

On the other hand, the new Romeo at least has lots of beautiful choreography, which is more that can be said for Love Lies Bleeding. The highly anticipated latest work from the Alberta Ballet was a huge disappointment, despite having the use of Elton John and Bernie Taupin's songs.

Using popular songs with dance can easily help jump start a connection to an audience largely unfamiliar with ballet. When done right, like Rooster set to Rolling Stones music, it can culminate into a thrilling dance work that utilizes the power of beloved songs and translate them into emotionally powerful dance performance. Love Lies Bleeding seems merely content on presenting flashy costumes and dancers running in circles as it attempts to tell the tale of Sir Elton John himself.

The choreography throughout the entire show is lackluster at best, with a lot of butt shaking and circular running around the central Elton John double. There's very little actual ballet choreography within the dancing, and Maitre seems content on prosaic dance moves and simple grand gestures to move the piece along.

When the ballet (and that term should be used loosely here) finally has a hint of emotional depth, as Elton John meets his partner David Furnish (or what I assume is Furnish), and there's actually a lovely pas-de-deux, the show is over and we end with a big brassy encore. Amazingly, by trying too hard to be flashy and edgy, Maitre made Elton John music a bore.

Photos for National Ballet of Canada by Bruce Zinger
Vance at http://tapeworthy.blogspot.com


Anonymous said...

Does the Romeo & Juliette performance have nudity? Was very surprised that the season guide showed a female dancer topless.

Vance said...

I don't think there was nudity that I can recall. There usually never is. Sometimes flesh coloured costumes or almost nude costumes with strategically placed stuff but usually on the modern dancers. Romeo is all about big costumes and stuff.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Vance.

It's just that this cover image was rather surprising - http://national.ballet.ca/pdf/brochure-1112.pdf

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