Star-Crossed Lovers Charm En Pointe

February 28, 2013 / by / 0 Comment

I’ve never really been a fan of ballets. Although I’m quite fascinated by the sheer strength, agility and skill of ballet dancers, I’ve never managed to get through a ballet without dozing off halfway. ‘Boring’ is probably the word that a lot of people would associate the word ‘ballet’ with. And I’m quite puzzled by this because what is it that makes ballet in movies like Center Stage, Step Up or Black Swan look so cool yet real ballets boring? Surely if ballet is a genuine snoozefest, people would stop making movies and tv shows about it. After watching American Ballet Theatre’s production of Romeo and Juliet last night, I’ve realized that the line between boredom and intrigue lies in presentation and the attention to detail.

What initially made me want to watch ABT’s Romeo and Juliet was that it was ABT—the ballet company that all aspiring dancers would die to get into, like Cate Blanchett in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. The opulent set and costumes of the production also made the ballet look highly promising. So I decided to give it a go and that if ABT fails to convince me of staged ballets’ charm, I’d be done with it. To my surprise, the show was anything but boring—I managed to stay awake in its entire 3 hours!

What sets this apart from other ballets for me (and I don’t claim to have watched many, in fact quite little, but from the ones that I have watched) is that it gave a lot of effort in speaking to a broad audience. It cared for aspects beyond choreography that makes the show enjoyable even for commoners who don’t speak ballet, like me. Visually it was stunning—all costumes were beautifully crafted and almost every scene in each act had a different backdrop! It actually felt like Renaissance Italy. When the scene changed from outside the dim Capulet castle gate to the brightly lit masquerade ball, people around me, and I too, actually gasped a soft “wow” and leaned forward on the edge of their seats to see the extravagance more clearly. The grandeur of twenty dancers dancing in unison, the tension of precisely choreographed fight sequences, the witty episodes of comic relief before the inevitable tragedy, the detail of the classic “holy palmer’s kiss”, the emotional pas de deux below the balcony…made the ballet truly entertaining.

Romeo and Juliet is an age-old tale that everyone’s familiar with and it’s quite hard to do a rendition of the story beyond what’s already been done. With a ballet, there’s also the technicality of choreography that can’t be ignored and very often dance and craft of technique tends to overshadow narrative, which is understandable given it’s first and foremost a ballet. But ABT’s production was a balanced interplay between dance and narrative; it cared for details that an audience who knows nothing of ballet techniques can also access and enjoy. What made ballet interesting in something like Step Up was that it wasn’t presented as something highbrow or only for the artsy. I guess with all things, no matter how brilliant, if it only speaks to a certain niche that ‘knows’ how to appreciate it, its charm is ultimately restricted.



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