Saturday, May 12, 2012

Lessons on Love from "Romeo and Juliet," the Ballet

I saw Prokofiev's "Romeo and Juliet" tonight, and what a treat!  A little Prokofiev goes a long way; I am still thinking about it now!  Here's a sampling: Dance of the Knights.  (Seriously, listen to it.  Now.)  I like Prokofiev's version of the play better than Tchaikovsky's, actually.  There are some incredible violin/brass sections that are so dark and dramatic; I just love it.

Until tonight, I had only seen two ballets in my life: "The Nutcracker" and "Sleeping Beauty," both by Tchaikovsky and both very strict classical ballet, of the Russian variety.  The focus on this type of ballet is on pointe work, turn-outs, high extensions, and from what I remember, there is a lot of spinning . . .  Precision is key.  When I saw "Sleeping Beauty," I remember being amazed at that precision.  No movement seemed out of place; everything was perfect.  I left the performance thinking about how the human body is one heck of a machine.

Tonight, however, I walked away from "Romeo and Juliet" thinking about love.  Not because of the plot, but because of the dancing.  This particular ballet was coreographed in the neoclassical style, which is less rigid than classical ballet and emphasizes mime and drama.  There were two scenes, in particular, that stood out to me.  One was the scene in which Romeo first visits Juliet.  Juliet all but floats down the stairs to him, and they dance and dance and dance.  They move in complete synch.  There is a beautiful fluidity to their movements -- a gentle push and pull, with neither character ever overpowering the other.  Later, when Romeo mistakenly believes that Juliet is dead, he lifts her off the mausoleum bed and dances with her.  He moves her body for her, and somehow, it's not strange; it's magical.

In contrast, when Juliet dances with Paris, the man her parents have arranged for her to marry, the movements are stiff and standoffish.  There is absolutely no expression of connection or unity.

So what am I saying here?  I'm saying a few things, I guess.  I'm saying that Prokofiev's music is wonderful, that neoclassical ballet is surprisingly gripping, and that love should feel as naturally fluid as it looked for Romeo and Juliet in the ballet.  Forget strict and rigid and hesitant; love should be responsive and reciprocal and sure.

Thing I'm thankful for: a conversation about ballet with my brother-in-law


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