writers on dancing


A Headstrong Juliet

Romeo and Juliet
Irina Dvorovenko and Maxim Beloserkovsky
American Ballet Theatre
Metropolitan Opera House
New York, NY
July 3, 2004

by Leigh Witchel
copyright © 2004 by Leigh Witchel
published July 5, 2004

Don’t mess with Irina Dvorovenko’s Juliet! Dvorovenko filled the theater in a hugely scaled, bluntly direct reading of Kenneth MacMillan’s version of Shakespeare’s tragedy. In Juliet’s first scenes, Dvorovenko is an excited tomboy; in the final act, a passionate movie star. She rips open the phial of poison and gulps it down. When the tragedy has unspooled and there seems no other acceptable action left there’s no moment of hesitation before the fatal actions. She sees the knife, goes to it, picks it up and jams it into her belly. It’s a bit surprising to see a Juliet this powerful (Wait! Suicide isn’t the only choice; why not consider taking over a small mountainous principality or perhaps a multinational corporation?) but it’s also the most honest approach for Dvorovenko to take without dissembling. You believe it because you believe that it’s her. Her dancing was strong and extravagant; there is no extension of her elongated physique that doesn’t flick past her shoulders perilously close to her ears. She’s no shrinking violet and neither is her Juliet; she’s girlish on an opera house scale all the way to the back of the Family Circle.

Her Romeo was her husband and usual partner, Maxim Beloserkovsky. As usual in their dancing partnership, she’s the one in charge. He was a handsome, ardent Romeo and partnered her lovingly, but she’s the one with the technique of solid brass. Mercutio was danced by Jesus Pastor with a dark-toned quality that felt a bit more sophisticated than usual for this company even in the pyrotechnical sections. I understand the casting of David Hallberg as Benvolio in terms of ability, but I’ve never understood it in terms of physique. He’s tall enough to throw off a stage picture, but ABT is not a company that ever casts for proportion. Happily, Beloserkovsky is on the tall side and Pastor is not as short as most other ABT Mercutios.

Ethan Brown played Tybalt in his final performance after 23 years with the company. He’s the American in Verona; he plays the role with a tough swagger but also a directness that makes him realistically Dvorovenko’s kin. His temper and anger develops at a slow boil and from his calm reaction to sword fights you can tell that he’s seen people die before. Unlike some others in the role, Brown makes it clear that the fatal blow to Mercutio wasn’t accidental. He shows no satisfaction in Mercutio’s death, but he can tell the wound was mortal and he just wants him to quit staggering about and die already. In all fairness, that’s what I was thinking in the audience as well; both Prokofiev and MacMillan pad out the street scenes. When Mercutio finally kicks the bucket, Brown goads Beloserkovsky into the final duel, though he begs for his life briefly when it’s apparent he’s about to be run through. It isn’t a subtle reading, but it works.

As in “Eugene Onegin”, the 20th century conception of the three act story ballet is a series of major pas de deux with subsidiary dances and dancers hung off of them. ABT populated the secondary cast roles reliably. Karin Ellis-Wentz was an empathetic Nurse, Kirk Peterson effectively ineffective as both Prince Escalus who fails to stop the feud and Friar Laurence who gives fatal advice. In her headscarves as Lady Capulet, Veronika Part was as beautiful as a painting by van Eyck. Victor Barbee’s performance as Lord Capulet was understated but deeply affecting. In a cast last year his sympathetic reticence in the role didn’t mesh with the other performers; here it did and it made sense. His anger with Juliet’s refusal to marry Paris is fueled by grief, frustration and the desire to lift the curse from his house. After she’s drugged herself, he touches her seemingly lifeless body, kisses her hand and staggers a few small steps back. He doesn’t do much, but you can tell he’s shattered.

MacMillan’s production of “Romeo and Juliet” will be forty next year, old enough at this point to qualify as a warhorse. The company treated it as one, in a positive way. They know the ins and outs of the ballet, what it can take and where they could squeeze effects out of it to end the season on a good solid note.

Both photos, Irina Dvorovenko and Maxim Beloserkovsky as Romeo and Juliet. Photo: MIRA.

Originally published:
Volume 2, No. 25
July 5, 2004

Copyright ©2004 by Leigh Witchel


DanceView Times

What's On This Week
Index of Reviews
Index of Writers

Back Issues
About Us

Sister Sites:
Ballet Alert! Online
Ballet Talk
Ballet Blogs


Mindy Aloff
Dale Brauner
Mary Cargill
Clare Croft
Nancy Dalva
Rita Felciano
Lynn Garafola
Marc Haegeman
George Jackson
Gia Kourlas
Sali Ann Kriegsman
Jean Battey Lewis
Kate Mattingly
Alexander Meinertz
Tehreema Mitha
Gay Morris
Ann Murphy
Paul Parish
Susan Reiter
Jane Simpson
Alexandra Tomalonis(Editor)
Lisa Traiger
Meital Waibsnaider

Kathrine Sorley Walker
Leigh Witchel



DanceView is available by subscription ONLY. Don't miss it. It's a good read.  Black and white, 48 pages, no ads. Subscribe today!

DanceView is published quarterly (January, April, July and October) in Washington, D.C. Address all correspondence to:

P.O. Box 34435
Washington, D.C. 20043
last updated on June 14, 2004