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National Ballet of Canada - Ratmansky's Romeo and Juliet, London, April 2013


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WOW! WOW! WOW! .... and more WOW! WOW! WOW!  

 

What a TREAT it is to see (i) a production that employs ALL the music FOR DANCE (ii) to TELL THE STORY - which this production does MIRACULOUSLY well.  (What a relief to have the banishment made clear - much as Ashton does - thus making sense of the urgency necessary for the last balletic act.)  What a TREAT to see a production (iii) built for an ENTIRE COMPANY and (iv) to see it danced SO JOYOUSLY - as opposed, say, to a concentration on but a few well versed principals.  What a TREAT to see a production that (v) you feel confident respects women - ALL WOMEN - within the community depicted.  What a treat to see a production (vi) so wonderfully lit as this is (and I use the word in the sense of light!) so that you really honour ALL of the truly wonderful details.  What a TREAT to see a production (vii) where the vibrant design (both in scenery and costumes) makes you feel refreshed and is not over cluttered nor ever too heavy.  In short, WHAT A TREAT.  

 

ALL I CAN SAY IS 'GO' .... GO! GO! GO! ... YOU WON'T BE DISAPPOINTED ... THIS IS A COMPANY BALLET FOR A FINE COMPANY ... AND IT WON'T MATTER IN THE MAJORITY I THINK AS TO WHO THE PRINCIPALS ARE.  THE WHOLE HERE IS, I'M CERTAIN, MORE THAN JUST THE SUM OF ITS PARTS.  Perhaps that is the Canadian way ... much as at one time it was hailed as being the 'British' one.  But then Miss Franca knew that as did her friend Erik Bruhn.  On the bus coming back I immediately purchased a ticket for the three more performances of this production I could possibly squeeze into my diary this week.  (Anyone want a ticket for La Bayadere on the Sat. Mat ... Now I have a reason NOT to go .. and not just because Alina won't be dancing this time either!!!  Now I have a huge smile on my face and in my heart!!!  Did I say that I found this ROMEO & JULIET a TOTAL TREAT!!!! ... WELL, I DID!!!) 

 

In all the accolades that I'm certain will be heaved with justification upon this production, I would like to pay a SPECIAL TRIBUTE to someone who I fear might otherwise be overlooked in the British press.  I want to honour the GLORY THAT IS KAREN KAIN for having brought this production and its wonderful creatives together.  I ALWAYS KNEW YOU WERE A GENIUS, KAREN ... YOU GO ON EVEN NOW ASTONISHING EVERYONE IN SIGHT THROUGH THE GENIUS OF YOUR OWN INSIGHTFUL LARGESS, ONE THAT IS NOW - AS IT ALWAYS WAS - ROOTED IN YOUR OWN STUNNING SENSE OF DETAIL.  YOU ARE NOW - AS YOU EVER WERE - A ROLE MODEL TO SO, SO MANY OTHERS.  Of one thing I am ABSOLUTELY certain: Celia Franca is looking down tonight from the heavens; down UPON the home of her own  beginnings and, you know, Karen, RIGHT NOW, dear Miss Franca's smiling in triumph.  That's YOUR gift to US as much as to HER.  BLESS YOU!  BLESS YOU BIG TIME, KAREN.  YOU and ALL CANADIANS have every reason to be proud.  YOU DONE BRILLIANT GIRL!!!  

 

Please ... PLEASE ... DON'T LET IT BE 26 MORE YEARS BEFORE YOU AND YOUR GLORIOUS COMPANY RETURN TO LONDON!!

Edited by Meunier
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I love this Romeo & Juliet. Ratmansky is such a brilliant choreographer.

 

Meunier, your comment re: a production built for an entire company is interesting - NBoC had a John Cranko version of R&J that was much-loved by audiences but Karen Kain said she thought a new production was needed partly in order to provide more scope for more dancers - not just those with lead roles. 

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here are a few sample pics. The set will fill up a bit more, when I get the chance. We only could photograph Act 1...

 

8659650204_dc41278da3_z.jpg
Romeo & Juliet at the Capulet Ball (Guillaume Cote & Heather Ogden)
© Dave Morgan. Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr


8659649960_2ac48ca327_z.jpg
An ardent Romeo for Juliet (Guillaume Cote & Heather Ogden)
© Dave Morgan. Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr


8658544835_0946cf66e5_z.jpg
Romeo & Juliet - from the Balcony scene (Guillaume Cote & Heather Ogden)
© Dave Morgan. Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr


See more...

Set from DanceTabs - National Ballet of Canada: Romeo & Juliet
Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

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My goodness Meunier - how orgasmic is that! Will your keyboard ever recover?!

My own feelings are different. I think Kain's decision to park a much loved and famous production was good and Ratmansky is a hell of a name, so good too. But you could knock me down with a feather if you'd said beforehand that I would leave at the end of the second act. But leave I did - long day and the ballet just seemed flat and curiously un-involving up to that point. A rough poll in the intervals had some really happy but more people struggling with not being swept away by it all. I don't think anybody thought it a clunker (incl me) and there were good words for this or that aspect of the show. For me I liked the designs, the end of Act 2 which made fine dramatic sense, the sketching of the Nurse, one or two bits of the balcony pdd and the fine dancing throughout - wonderful legs and sharpness all around. Good company they are - that comes through.

By the time thoughts hit social media or forums much of the candid assessments have usually softened (I wish they wouldn't!) but there was a huge critical turn out and I look forward to seeing what the heavy hitters make of it.

One thing I saw already was a Tweet by Luke Jennings (here) that implied it got going in act 3. Bit late really is that.

Just checked and Ismene Brown's Arts Desk review is up under the headline: "Ballet's most popular lovers fare tepidly in the hands of Alexei Ratmansky":
http://www.theartsdesk.com/dance/romeo-and-juliet-national-ballet-canada-sadlers-wells

 

PS: Nice shots Dave!

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Thank you, Bruce ... You are right ... My words were very much over the top ... but it was certainly a sincere response at the time from a dyslexic who strives to be self-respecting.  ('Strives' is optimum here.)  My day had been a VERY long as well - TOO LONG PERHAPS - and I am, I fear, ever more rapidly getting very much older.  That too I do know.  I had to give a Shakespeare workshop for over one hundred primary school children.  While it was successful and - CERTAINLY - a keen responsibility such an undertaking can simply do one's head in.  I had dragged myself to Sadler's totally spent.  TOTALLY.  That is not a good frame of mind to visit ANY R&J in.  I was amazed that I came away feeling uplifted; which honestly I did not expect; in a sense I was 'refreshed'.  I CERTAINLY didn't expect anything - ANYTHING - would be able to do that for me in the state I was in .. expect perhaps my bed ... or a tomb or much longer promised sleep.  R&J can sometimes I feel be such heavy going.  TOO HEAVY.  Certainly that is how I felt looking at the poster as I walked past the theatre.  My initial response I feel had something to do with the light, a 'trick of' perhaps ... Still, more judicious eyes will certainly measure as you suggest.  Rightly so.  Should you wish (feel it prudent) please feel free to remove my words with, as ever, my entire respect.  

Edited by Meunier
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Thank you, Bruce ... You are right ... My words were very much over the top ... but it was certainly a sincere response

 

Sincerity is good - and wonderful to connect with a piece to that degree. When it happens for any of us it's a glorious thing and all we can do is tell it like it is.

 

Not for me to moderate but nobody I'm sure would want to tamper with such a spontaneous and heartfelt record. All power to you!

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Sincerity is good - and wonderful to connect with a piece to that degree. When it happens for any of us it's a glorious thing and all we can do is tell it like it is.

 

Not for me to moderate but nobody I'm sure would want to tamper with such a spontaneous and heartfelt record. All power to you!

 

Agreed, and I'll see for myself at the closing matinee on Sunday (Elgar's "The Kingdom" is occupying the space until then) - but this thread has made it onto Twitter to a degree, I see.

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Pity you went home, Bruce - the last 2 minutes were the best! Ratmansky uses Shakespeare's ending - the reconciliation of the feuding families - and I found it, rather to my surprise, much more moving than the one used in most ballet versions. Otherwise the whole piecei was full of steps - too much so at times, when I  wished Ratmansky had chosen stillness instead - but lighter in feel than Lavrovsky etc, more - like Ashton in that respect. But for me nothing disguises the fact that the score dictates that it's simply too long, especially in those endless market-place scenes.

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Since this morning four of Bruce's 'heavy hitters' have now filed their reviews - all will feature in tomorrow's Links - with, arguably, the heaviest hitter yet to come.  The star count is four in the Guardian, and three each in the Evening Standard, Indy, and Telegraph - with the Toronto Star back home keeping count!

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Jane, thanks so much for mentioning Ashton. I thought that the crowd scenes had a real Ashtonian feel to them. I enjoyed the production on the whole but will put more thoughts on when I get home on Sunday. Thrill of the evening for us was seeing ex-NB favourite. Jon Renna as Mercutio.

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I enjoyed this a lot last night, though I thought it wasn't as good as the MacMillan version. As many of the reviews said, too many rushed steps and the pas de deux felt a bit restrained. Still, there were some lovely moments (one of my favourites being when Juliet gathered her friends around her for a quick gossip at the end of the Capulets' Ball). Act 3 was stunning - I loved the sweeping movements across the stage when Juliet goes to the Friar and Romeo is in exile, and I thought the way she 'saw' what the potion would do was very clever. I found the ending very moving.

 

Mayerling tonight! Not sure I can take all this emotion!

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Ouch, indeed! I saw opening night. I liked the pared down sets (National Ballet is a touring company after all) and absence of lots of props. Like CC, I wasn't keen on a lot of the costumes. As for the choreography, there were some very good bits, eg Juliet's vision of her death and the dancing for Romeo and his friends, and I really liked the clear characterisation. I did feel though that the central relationship lacked a bit of passion. The balcony scene wasn't as affecting as the MacMillan one which has that great moment when Juliet runs down the steps. In this version the balcony is very side on and she just appears outside suddenly. I've just realised why I wasn't so keen on Cote's portrayal. I always think of Romeo as being a bit of a jack-the-lad and here, whether intentionally or otherwise, he comes across as a good boy and, consequently, a little bland. The stand out performance for me was Stanczyz as Mercutio.

Edited by aileen
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My ds and I are going Sunday. I hope its better than what people are saying:(

Makes a change to treat my ds to watch a ballet as he is normally in them.

Hello Spax, I can tell you that the audiences here in Toronto and Ottawa have been very enthusiastic, so no point spoiling your anticipation of it by paying attention to the more negative critics, as you may be in total disagreement with them!

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Spax:  I agree entirely with Katherine, and I won't be cancelling our Sunday booking on account of any review thus far.  I'm sure your son will find much to admire in Ratmansky's work - the world is not chasing his tail for nothing - and I hope that you do too. 

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My ds and I are going Sunday. I hope its better than what people are saying:(

Makes a change to treat my ds to watch a ballet as he is normally in them.

I and my friends saw the rehearsal and the evening performance and we all thoroughly enjoyed it. It was refreshing to see a different version of this ballet as I've only seen MacMillan (many times). I'm very glad to have seen it and thought some of the critics were unduly harsh, I'm much more in agreement with Judith Mackrell's 4 star review. On the opening night there was a standing ovation from many people in the stalls.

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Without being as enthusiastic, I agree with all of Meunier's points at the beginning of the post, you do get all of this.

But overall, I found it a rather uninvolving evening, it wasn't actually bad, but there was little I found engaging. It was very pretty but overall I thought it lacked personality. I agree though that the third act was slightly better than the rest; but it is rather telling that just a day later, there is little that stayed with me.

 

I feel a bit bad writing that as we see little of Ratmansky here, I very much liked Seven Sonatas with ABT but nothing else I've seen so far makes me agree with the superlatives he receives, even if I have no doubt that they are deserved (I liked 24 Preludes well enough, but found it rather light, and not necessarily in a good way).

 

I have however nothing but praise for the company, the corps was perfectly in sync and the roles were, I assume, danced perfectly. After the Osipova/Vasiliev performances of the Mikhailovsky, it was very nice to see ballet performances where the dancers served the steps and the story (I'm only contrasting the two without meaning to judge, both experiences can be rewarding, and in these cases, I very much preferred the evenings watching Don Q and Laurencia).

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As for the choreography, there were some very good bits, eg Juliet's vision of her death

You've not see the Nureyev, then? :)

 

I did feel though that the central relationship lacked a bit of passion.

(See above :) )

 

I enjoyed quite a lot of the production, and particularly what Ratmansky did in terms of the narrative/reproducing the play (barring the explanation of the poison scene, which definitely gave me a sense of deja vu).  I was rather less convinced about much of the choreography for R & J, though, and particularly not the relationship, which didn't strike me as being sufficiently powerful to be worth killing yourself over.  But it was an interesting take, and certainly serves the company well.

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Alison, I haven't seen the Nureyev version. I should have said "simulated death" rather than "death".

 

There are rather more positive reviews from Graham Watts and Cristina de Lucas on One Stop Arts. I think that some of the critics have been unduly negative. This R&J is a very different creation from MacMillans and should be judged on its own merits. Having said that, based on his choreography in this and in 24 Preludes I can't see why there is all the fuss about Ratmansky. And am I the only one who feels that all the ballet companies around the world are jumping on the same few choreographic bandwagons. Will this eventually result in all the companies becoming almost indistinguishable from one another?

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Feeling that there is room in the world for a fresh and inventive R&J, I was hugely disappointed by Wednesday's opening night. For me the main problem was the very flat and unengaging performance of the leading roles.

 

This afternoon, however, I had the great pleasure of seeing Elena Lobsanova's superb Juliet. She was riveting in both her dancing and acting. It was a different ballet today! With a very convincing characterisation of Romeo from McGee Maddox, today the choreography made sense and truly reached its high points. Today I cared what happened to them, it was both joyful and moving, on Wednesday I just cared when it would be over!

 

I can't help feeling there would have been at least one or two more positive critical reviews with different casting on opening night.

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I'm afraid that I wasn't too keen on the two leads on opening night either. Apart from anything else, I felt that Heather was too tall for Guillaume. I wonder why the casting was changed and Guillaume wasn't dancing with Elena as he had done in the performances in Canada.

 

Edited for spelling.

Edited by aileen
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Having spent my school years in Toronto, this is the company, and Karen Kain in particular with her beautiful Juliet in Cranko’s classic production, that ignited my love of ballet.  Therefore, I am extremely sad that I cannot be as euphoric as Meunier about the performance I saw this afternoon.  The dancers were as I expected: highly disciplined, neat and precise and they deserved so much more than Ratmansky gave them.  To be blunt, I would sum up this “Romeo and Juliet” as amateurish with sets that seemed to have been designed for  a shoestring budget and costumes with no design theme.  This was not choreography, it was a series of steps unrelated to the story or the passion of the music (wonderfully played by the Royal Ballet Sinfonia), with a few bits of traditional mime and meaningless mime in the breaks.  Ratmansky failed to deliver anything original or inventive and I longed for Nureyev’s vibrant crowd scenes, Macmillan’s passionate pas de deux and Cranko’s masterly interpretation of all the other scenes, in particular his magnificent ballroom scene (these three versions melded together would be my ideal ballet!).  Jiri Jelinek’s fiery Tybalt and Jonathan Renna’s genial Mercutio did their best with the material on offer (although Mercutio suffered from having to wear the worst costume in the opening scene).  McGee Maddox and Elena Lobsanova made a very attractive pair of lovers but the choreography did not allow them the chance to develop their characters. For example: after Romeo is unmasked at the ball and is told to leave, Juliet goes back to dancing with Paris and her friends as if just meeting the love of her life had never happened.  Ratmansky uses the ending from the original Italian novella on which Shakespeare’s play is based, so that Juliet wakes up before Romeo dies (although in the novella she does not stab herself but dies of a broken heart) and this was the most effective and genuinely moving moment of the ballet, perhaps because there was no dancing and the lovers, then the families, were allowed to show unencumbered emotion.  Luckily the rest of the audience was far more appreciative than I was so that the company received a rousing ovation at the end.

 

As this is a highly critical piece, I am signing my full name: Irmgard Berry

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I saw 2 performances of this production - Thursday evening and Saturday matinee - and I enjoyed it on many levels.  I do feel though that Ratmansky put in too many steps to sometimes allow full development of the characters.

 

I loved the sparse set - the terracotta colours so reminiscent of a warm and vibrant Italy.  I'm a bit ambivalent about the costumes - I liked some but loathed several.  Let's not go there about Mercutio's opening costume (fortunately he had changed into something much more to my taste for gatecrashing the ball!).  I thought all Paris' costumes were horrible but reserve my particular venom for his ballroom one - I have got absolutely no idea why he had to be dressed like the angel that has fallen off the top of the Christmas tree - it was vile!

 

The crowd scenes, not choreographically but in feeling, very much reminded me of Sir Frederick Ashton's production as presented by LFB (ENB) so often in the mid-1980s to very early 90s.  Crisp steps but no real fighting within the corps.  It was more a metaphorical brawl except for the leading characters.  From the start, it seemed to me that Romeo was presented as a romantic young man - he was reading a book at one stage.  I liked the martial sequence in the ballroom scene and I loved the huge banquet set out at the back of the stage as a backdrop to the ball.  Mercutio has a good section when he is trying to attract attention away from Romeo.

 

For me the balcony scene was romantic rather than passionate but I think that is a production value rather than the dancers.  I personally liked the balcony - I thought it more realistic than we see in many productions.  And I liked that it allowed Romeo to feel despair that Juliet had disappeared and joy when she appeared in front of him.  I always think that stillness can be very telling and I just felt that Ratmansky hadn't allowed enough time in the duet for stillness.

 

There was a miniscene in Act 2 that I thought was a wonderful touch.  In act 1, one of the ladies in the crowd is distraught at her husband's death and pleads with the Prince of Verona.  That lady and a companion is in the church with Friar Lawrence as Romeo rushes in.  In his impetuosity, Romeo brushes the ladies aside as he is desperate to get to the friar.  The wedding scene was danced rather than acted - another lost opportunity I thought.  Iiked both Lord and Lady Capulet running to Tybalt's side as he died and the fact that they were both grief stricken but not over the top and I like the fact that you saw Romeo being banished by the Prince.

 

For me, Act 3  was definitely the most powerful.  There was more passion in the opening duet but it was a passion of despair rather than love.  Lord Capulet's brutality of Juliet was shocking and effective.  I thought Juliet's run through the (albeit) stylised crowds of Verona was a superb touch.  It somehow seemed to make it much more real.

 

Much to my total amazement, having read the synopsis, I loved the ending.  I'm not keen on productions where Juliet wakes up before Romeo is dead but I thought it really worked in this production and I found it very moving.  The reconciliation at the end was brilliant too.   I must admit to having a lump in my throat and they my eyes weren't watering because of hay fever!

 

And so to the dancers.  I thought the whole company looked on terrific form.  Elena Lobsanova was sublime as Juliet.  McGee Maddox was a coltish and impetuous Romeo and I very much enjoyed his performance.  Jiri Jelinek was superb as Tybalt - a wonderfully menacing.  Patrick Lavoie was hampered by the dreadful costumes but was a sympathetic Paris.  It was just a joy to see Jon Renna on a British stage again and he was absolutely terrific as Mercutio - right under the skin of the character and dancing superbly.

 

I'm very glad I saw NBoC on such good form and in a decent production of R&J.  It may not be in the reckoning to become a favourite of mine but it wasn't half as bad as some I have seen over the years.  It is the 13th or 14th different production I have seen BTW.

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And am I the only one who feels that all the ballet companies around the world are jumping on the same few choreographic bandwagons.

 

You certainly aren't.  I too have serious reservations about so many companies going for the easy options of McGregor, Ratmansky and Wheeldon rather than developing their own talent - assuming they have any.

 

This afternoon, however, I had the great pleasure of seeing Elena Lobsanova's superb Juliet.

 

I was surprised to see that the casting had been changed so that it wasn't the original couple dancing R & J.  I realised this from the photos in the programme.

 

I do feel though that Ratmansky put in too many steps to sometimes allow full development of the characters.

 

I thought that in places, too.

 

I thought all Paris' costumes were horrible but reserve my particular venom for his ballroom one - I have got absolutely no idea why he had to be dressed like the angel that has fallen off the top of the Christmas tree - it was vile!

 

Yes.  Really icky.  And I hadn't even realised that it was Paris at this stage - just thought "Oh, the poor corps member who has to wear that outfit"!

 

The crowd scenes, not choreographically but in feeling, very much reminded me of Sir Frederick Ashton's production as presented by LFB (ENB) so often in the mid-1980s to very early 90s. 

 

Yes, I thought they seemed rather familiar in that respect.

 

There was a miniscene in Act 2 that I thought was a wonderful touch.  In act 1, one of the ladies in the crowd is distraught at her husband's death and pleads with the Prince of Verona.  That lady and a companion is in the church with Friar Lawrence as Romeo rushes in.  In his impetuosity, Romeo brushes the ladies aside as he is desperate to get to the friar. 

 

I liked that touch, too.  However, I'd have appreciated it rather more if the lady in question, between her despairing plea to the Prince after her husband is killed, and her appearance in the church, hadn't been dancing around with the rest of the townspeople as if nothing has happened.  I thought they could at least have got her a change of costume or of hair so that it wasn't so obvious.

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