Ballet and Death and Sex and Romance

It was a sound performance with a lot of great dancing and choreography that made me think, and for that I am grateful.

Lady Capulet mourns the death of Tybalt

Achariya: Jen and I had the opportunity to see the Orlando Ballet’s Romeo and Juliet, and also to attend the 2018-2019 season launch this past weekend. It was lovely to take part in the community’s enthusiasm for ballet, and to be there to hear the incredibly charming Mr. Robert Hill, Orlando Ballet’s Artistic Director, announce his 10th anniversary season lineup.

The lineup is (drumroll):

  • Carmina Burana (October 12-14, 2018), a dance set to Carl Orff’s score and live vocal music
  • The Nutcracker (December 7-16, 2018), which needs no explanation
  • Bailamos! (February 15-17, 2019), Latin music-inspired choreography
  • Fast Forward (March 29, 2019) highlighting Orlando Ballet’s professional second company (OBII)
  • Peter & the Wolf Family Weekend (March 30-31, 2019) set to Prokofiev’s score
  • Arcadian Broad’s Wonderland: Mad Tales of the Hatter (April 26-28, 2019 ), in which the Mad Hatter finds himself in Flapper-era London and has to get back to save Alice

You can read more about next season here.

Which of these are you excited about, Jen? I think for me it’s Carmina Burana, because I’ve never seen a ballet set to this music before, and I’m intrigued.

Jen: Same – the music from Carmina Burana is so mercurial and powerful, I’m sure the ballet will be the same. And the costumes! As CB deals with religious themes, the door is open for some very exciting designs. If I were in charge I’d have the costumer take his or her cues from Hieronymus Bosch. 

Achariya: You’ll be teaching me a lot here, because I’m not as familiar with Carmina Burana, and I look forward to learning from you!

Romeo and Juliet

Achariya: Mr. Hill’s choreographic signature is an adorable lightness and tenderness between the dancers, which I saw in spades. You know that I’ve been a fan of the Romeo and Juliet ballet for a while (as choreographed by various people, including New York City Ballet’s Peter Martin), and so I immediately looked for how Mr. Robert Hill would interpret the ballet differently.

I was surprised that his staging of the bedroom scene (right before Romeo is exiled for killing Tybalt) did not include more of the playful and saucy “here we are in bed together” of other productions. I feel like Mr. Hill’s dancers, especially Kate-Lynn Robichaux and Arcadian Broad, would have really shone with a little more opportunity for tenderness, and a little less immediate angst. However, their lovely balcony pas-des-deux had a lot of what I was looking for in how the movements expressed the charmingness of their fresh young love.

I admit that the Dance of the Knights’ repetitive choreography wore at me a little, although I understood its purpose. It was to show the kind of strictly regulated future that Juliet was in for, in her role as a lady of Verona and the arm candy of a proper young man. I guess the movements worked to convey just how routine that role would become for a light-hearted youngster like Juliet.

That being said, the parts of the ballet that I really loved included:

  • Robichaux and Broad’s chemistry (which I also enjoyed when they were co-leads for Cinderella), especially during the Dance of the Knights where Romeo and Juliet meet, and in the final crypt scene when the characters died. There’s nothing more heartbreaking than that last dance, and they sold it well with the emotion they imbued throughout the gradual shedding of their characters’ innocence.
  • Robichaux’s Juliet during any scene in which her parents forced her to dance with Adam Boreland’s Paris. I couldn’t help reading #metoo into the final scene before Juliet took the poison — because it’s part of our era, and because the scene was a stark reminder that young women should be given MORE agency and choice, and not less. The scene was meaningful and maybe even a little jarring, but because of that it stuck with me even more. I have a teenage daughter, and the threat of this unthinkable solution to feeling trapped and misunderstood is always a relevant topic, and has been for centuries.
  • Boreland’s classic Paris, who was perhaps more interested in the vintage of wine at the Capulet’s ball than Juliet. He performed in an understated way that suited the role.
  • Any time Mercutio, Benvolio, and Romeo were on stage together. They were exactly the swaggering Elizabethan teens that I expected, and Mr. Hill did an amazing job of capturing the soul of Mercutio’s playful death banter in his dying pantomime. “Ask for me tomorrow/And you shall find me a grave man” indeed. Broad had great chemistry with Nick Patterson’s Mercutio and Albjon Gjorllaku’s Benvolio, and their dancing with each other and with the “Three Harlots” (Blair Bagley, Isabella Mendez, and HItomi Nakamura) in the village scenes really embodied the scrappy energy at the heart of the ballet.
  • The Three Harlots were humorous casting that worked well — it’s always great to see women in more active roles than just “blushing young virgin who gets carried around by various men,” and Mr. Hill envisioned these dancers as the instigators who sparked a lot of the “newfound mutiny” between the Montagues and Capulets. I enjoyed the energetic sluttiness that the three brought to the part.
  • The fighting. I liked the ordered and menacing choreography of the turf warfare between the Montagues and Capulets, and thought it was quite effectively done. I liked the circling of the dancers with swords pointed at each other, and the way in which the clash of swords and pairs of fighters lent themselves to the overall pace of the swashbuckling.
  • I appreciated how Daniel Benavides interpreted Tybalt, and also liked the implied subtle romance between him and his AUNT ???!!!, Anita Boer’s Lady Capulet, unless I am seriously misunderstanding the staging. Benavides embodied Tybalt’s rough temper and quick anger, and was solid as the center of the most fun/heartbreaking/meaningful set piece of the ballet, in which Tybalt, Mercutio, and Romeo duel.

In all, it was a sound performance with a lot of great dancing and choreography that made me think, and for that I am grateful.

Jen: I have little to add. The Tybalt/Lady Capulet energy definitely had a sexual subtext, but I suspected it was to further underscore the vaguely diabolic nature of the Capulets. They bordered on a cult, which makes sense given how they are demanding Juliet’s obedience. I got the same sense of foreboding from the March of the Knights but I never got tired of it, and the reds in the stage lighting tied back in to that hellish theme, foreshadowing Juliet’s future. Robichaux’s Juliet was at her most interesting when she began her descent into despair – her entire body language became more haunted, her mannerisms more genuine.

Achariya: In short, it was just wonderful to see live ballet, and I hope everyone takes advantage of this rich entry point to culture and history and interesting musical and theatrical texts that we have right in our city.


Author: jennnanigans

Orlando-area writerly person.

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