Someone once said that ballet is an art form that proves you don’t need words to tell a story.
The Milwaukee Ballet told the most honored of stories this weekend when they performed artistic director Michael Pink’s staging of "Romeo & Juliet."
The performance Friday night was an absolutely stunning event, full of all the passion, intrigue, romance and tragedy that anyone could imagine.
The story of Romeo and Juliet, written by William Shakespeare over 400 years ago, is the greatest love story ever told. It’s a challenge to bring it to the stage in a ballet, but this company was marvelously up to the task.
The title of the play is "Romeo & Juliet," but, in truth, this has always been Juliet’s play, and it is Juliet’s ballet.
Romeo is a gallant and tragic figure, and the performance by Alexandre Ferreira was eye-catching and full of all that is both strong and weak about this hero.
But this ballet belongs to Nicole Teague, the newest leading artist at the company. She dances as if on the wings of a dove. But it is not just her dancing that sets her apart in this world.
I once saw Rudolph Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn dance "Romeo & Juliet," arguably the standard by which others shall be permanently measured. Teague is not Fonteyn, but she has much of the same theatricality about her.
This ballet overwhelms the senses with spectacular sets, costumes and a brilliant lighting design by David Grill. But what makes the show so very special are tiny moments that make you hold your breath or gasp in wonder and delight.
The first kiss between the two young lovers is tender and curious, and Teague utters an "Oh, my," with her body and her face as she breaks reluctantly away.
When she and Romeo fall in love, you can see the conflicts that course through her emotions.
When the two fall to their knees in a rapturous kiss and she breathlessly falls out of it, you want to help this 13-year-old girl breathe.
Juliet is a complex person for one so young. On one hand, she is the chaste little girl, pure as the driven snow. On the other, she is a romantic, rushing toward womanhood and all the delights that await.
Teague gives us all of that and more.
She makes you want to tuck her under your arm and carry her away from any dangers and pitfalls that might snare her.
And then she turns into a sexy little siren, in love – and in bed with – Romeo. She likes it so much she pulls him back to join her in their one night together.
Teague fairly smolders on stage. This is a young dancer with great technical talents, but they are enhanced by her sex appeal and her marvelous gift for the theater.
The score, by Sergei Prokofiev, is a difficult piece of music, but the ballet orchestra – under the baton of Andrew Sill – was outstanding. Milwaukee is one of the few ballet companies in the country to have its own orchestra and it truly pays off.
Special nods must also go to Marc Petrocci, who played Mercutio and Mengjun Chen who played Benvolio. The two soul mates of Romeo delivered some of the most exquisite, energetic and riotous dancing of the night.
The night was truly a magic one, but the shame of it is that there are only four performances. This ought to run for at least a month.
But ballet is expensive, especially with your own orchestra and company of 25 dancers.
Nobody has asked me, but I’ll tell you what I would do if I were running the ballet. I would turn my marketing staff loose around the country and take this show to places that are starving for a world class "Romeo & Juliet." I don’t know what it would cost, but to have this wonderful group tour would be a remarkable gift to the rest of the world.
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