REVIEW: Romeo, Juliet, and Fate

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I can think of few Valentine’s Day plans more romantic than going to the ballet. What could make it even more swoon-worthy? Three little words: Romeo and Juliet.

On Valentine’s Day, Orchestra Iowa and Ballet Quad Cities put on Romeo and Juliet at The Paramount Theatre in Cedar Rapids. In a nearly sold out house, the lush, red heavy curtains on stage and the luxurious, ornately gilded auditorium set the scene for a most romantic performance.

The show began with a group of female dancers lying on the stage, slowly bending their knees and arching their backs with painstaking care, an opening that was strikingly picturesque. Enter Fate, danced by Jacob Lyon, who amidst the tumultuous emotional landscape, remained strong, certain, and deliberate. Throughout the piece, Fate would purposefully stride, often to the beat of the music, to Romeo and to Juliet and enact his will. He was never in a hurry, never in a rush. Though Romeo and Juliet both struggled against him and sought to escape him, they could never liberate themselves from unrelenting Fate.

Romeo, danced by Patrick Green, had the most incredible leaps. They were the epitome of all that that word encompasses. His leaps and even his pas de chats were effortless and seemed to allow him more time in the air than he needed. Propelling himself high in the air seemed to be almost a leisurely act for Green. It was Juliet’s hands that fascinated me the most. Juliet, danced by Jill Schwartz, had the most elegant hand gestures. They were like sleepy songbirds that slowly, with the utmost sensitivity, deftly extended every movement of Schwartz’s arms.

The ensemble was comprised of Marie Buser, Emily Kate Long, Carolyn McGuire, Meredith Green, Corey Mangum, Sophia Myers, Tessa Moore, Alec Roth, and Caroline Cady. Although they didn’t have a specific role or title, they all served to compliment and emphasize the emotional environment, and they all did so with exceptional elegance. Orchestra Iowa was brilliant, creating the emotional impetus for every dancer’s movement to weave within. Every note was exhilaratingly vulnerable and alluded to a deeper pain.

This ballet was not a play. It did not enact the plot of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The scenes were unclear and blended together. I was constantly searching for a plot that wasn’t ostensibly there. The choreographer, Courtney Lyon, stripped away the plot and let the emotion remain. The dancers endeavored to embody these emotions: the struggle against fate, the misery of forbidden love, the joy in a lover’s caress, the shattering pain of suicide and loss. In Ballet Quad Cities own words, the “eerie, edgy choreography by Courtney Lyon” illustrated the romantic tragedy of these star-crossed lovers.

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