Small frame, big role: Teague takes on Juliet for the Milwaukee Ballet
Watching Nicole Teague in rehearsal, she has the look of an elite athlete.
Her face flushed, her palms flat on the floor to keep her legs stretched and loose, her attention to her equipment and a line of sweat darkening the line down the middle of her back under the periwinkle leotard.
There's not much doubt about the athletics involved in being Juliet, the most famous lovestruck young woman in history. The story of her and her Romeo have kindled sparks for generations.
Now Teague will bring Juliet to life when "Romeo & Juliet" opens the season for the Milwaukee Ballet, running from Oct. 31 through Nov. 3.
Teague is 27 years old and is this little bit of a girl. But inside that lithe body, there is strength. Incredible strength. She's been in Milwaukee for seven years, the daughter of dancers who roamed the country with a variety of ballet companies.
She looks kind of like the high school babysitter who cares after your kids.
"I still get carded when I go out," she said with a delightful little chuckle and a smile that melts hearts. "And when I don't, I get angry."
She's been dancing since she was a child, but took a year off to wonder if she wanted to commit to what it takes to be a top-level dancer with a top-level dance company.
"I had been dancing in Colorado," she said, " and I just didn't know if I was ready to commit to this career and all that it takes. But during that year, it was like withdrawal. I felt like I was out of shape and wanted to move again. It's a passionate outlet that gets a grip on you."
Teague spent two years as a trainee with the Milwaukee Ballet and then became an artist with the company. Just recently, she was named a leading artist, one of just two women in the company. Luz San Miguel is the other.
Watching Teague in rehearsal is an experience. Her attention to detail as she dances alone and with her Romeo, Davit Hovhannisyan, combines precision with a freedom of movement that is like a private airplane flight, but you are invited to come along.
There are artists we all see who have that elusive "it factor." Teague is certainly one. She smiles, furrows her brow downcast when something isn't quite right, jokes with others and obviously sets a standard that is rigorous.
And that standard comes in great measure from Michael Pink, the artistic director of the company and choreographer of "Romeo & Juliet."
"This may be the greatest love story ever told," Teague said. "And Michael is a wonderful storyteller.
"Michael does an incredible job of telling the story," she said. "He pulls his choreography out of the music. He is just so musical."
There are many ballerinas who could dance the role of Juliet, but it takes a special dancer to reach out, grab the audience and make them feel what this doomed young woman is all about.
"Especially at Milwaukee Ballet with Michael, you need to be incredibly theatrical," Teague said. "Juliet is an incredible role. Highest highs and lowest lows. You truly have to throw yourself into it. When I'm finally on stage, I just let go of everything. I think that helps make a real connection with the audience."
Being a dancer is not an easy life. They work from 9 to 6, Monday through Friday. They must work out to keep their bodies ready to meet the demands of a role. There is little time that doesn't revolve around dance.
While Teague clearly loves working with Pink, the love fest is mutual.
"Watching an artist grow is one of the most rewarding parts of my job," Pink said. "I've had the pleasure of watching Nicole mature from a trainee to a leading artist in this company, and I couldn't be more proud to watch her succeed."
Milwaukee has long had a semi-strained relationship with the ballet. Those who love it, really love it. But not enough people see it to grow to love it.
Watching these elite athletes perform great stories set to beautiful music is a truly thrilling experience. And this production of "Romeo & Juliet" promises to be extra thrilling with the new leading artist of the Milwaukee Ballet, Nicole Teague.
Information and tickets are available at milwaukeeballet.org
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