Ballet BC premieres Walerski's contemporary Romeo + Juliet

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Romeo + Juliet | Ballet BC | Medhi Walerski | Queen Elizabeth Theatre | Feb 21 – 24, 2018

Montagues and Capulets; love and hate; day and night. Medhi Walerski presents the dualities of Shakespeare’s timeless tale with his contemporary Romeo + Juliet. With an expanded cast including Arts Umbrella dancers, this is a larger than life tale of young love and family loyalty. Ballet BC audiences have previously seen Walerski’s Petite Cérémonie, Prelude and Natus.

Three large grey rectangular set pieces were moved to create different spaces, and they monochromatic grey tones extended to the costumes to leave the setting with no specific time or place. With this subdued, universal set and costume design (by Theun Mosk and Walerski respectively), the dramatic narrative was at the forefront.

Narrative ballet is a new challenge for Walerski who tends to keep his works more abstract and based in broad feelings and concepts. For his first story ballet, however, he has created a richly textured world for these feuding families.

Emily Chessa was wonderful as the young ingénue, the torment of Juliet’s dilemma not lost on anyone. Romeo (Brandon Alley) was a strong partner, although less emotive. Gilbert Small stood out as the troublemaker Tybalt, and Juliet’s mother (Makaila Wallace) was perfectly neglectful while the nurse (Alexis Fletcher) helped Juliet to steal time with Romeo.

When Tybalt kills Mercutio (Scott Fowler), the corps represents Mercutio’s descent towards death and the fragility of his consciousness. This exploration of what happens during the moment between being hurt and dying ran through the ballet, as well as the stark divisions and conflict between the feuding families.   

While act one was dark, gothic, and grey, act two was light and airy. The dramatic masquerade ball and battling factions gave way to Juliet’s bedroom and her torment as her parents try to force her to marry Paris (Matthias Vaucher).

After the lovers escape their fate and leave this world, the cast converges on the stage, surrounding their bodies and facing the audience as if confronting them; as if urging us to think about the consequences of the Montagues’ and Cauplets’ petty feud and needless war.  

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