“Romeo and Juliet”
The Bad Boys of Ballet
North County High School’s Auditorium
Glen Burnie, Maryland
September 9, 2017 at 7:30 PM
by George Jackson
© 2017 by George Jackson
That this familiar story of young love could be happening right now or once upon a time haunts Adrienne Canterna’s dance retelling and gives it surrealistic clarity. Most of the characters are male, prone to fight, and that they do so in what may be seen as a contemporary gym or as a historic arcade makes time seem both eternal and urgent. The long gloves pulled over Juliet’s hands and arms as she dresses for a ball would suit a current fashion as well as one from just after World War 2; they might even match what was worn in the still earlier era of Ravel’s La Valse. Discounting the one crowd scene, just ten dancers – only two of them women – sketch out the action in very brief scenes. Canterna gives the varied figures distinctive movement traits but doesn’t appear to be a choreographer who develops the dancing musically or as motion sculpture.
Photo: Adrienne Canterna Juliet.
Juliet, performed by Canterna herself, is appealing and can be pliant but also stands her ground. Canterna danced the part wearing toe shoes for about the first quarter of the ballet and then barefoot. In love, this Juliet is sensually impulsive yet, when that love is endangered by Romeo’s rival, Paris (suave Eric Lehn), she shows anger and revulsion to an extreme extent. Canterna has a choreographic knack for bringing out bizarre, even grotesque, behavior in just about every one of her figures. Romeo (the streamlined Barton Cowperthwaite) is exceptionally boyish. With his buddies, Benvolio (Taylor Jones) and Mercutio (Tyler Stewart), this Romeo makes a trio that seems as happy-go-lucky at first as Jerome Robbins’s three 1940s sailors in “Fancy Free”. Juliet’s pugnacious kinsman Tybalt (Ryan Redmond) is explosively tense and dressed in blood-orange sweats. His two backups (Anthony Gabriel and Sam Quinn) combine being henchmen, hoodlums and hoofers. This cast was adept at delivering hip-hop moves, acrobatic flips plus steps from the classical ballet vocabulary and did so at full throttle. The Nurse, omnipresent wherever Juliet is, was even more conflicted than in Shakespeare’s play because she cares for the girl but in this version also has to represent parental authority (Grace Buckley’s portrayal had rich humanity). The character of Friar Laurence (Jace Zeimantz) was an exemplary model of austerity, and local students (from Ashley Canterna’s Maryland Festival Ballet and from the Edna Lee Dance Studio) gave the crowd scene its requisite energy.
Projections are crucial in this production, providing both settings and labels for scenes. Despite the dancers’ proficiencies, the staging wasn’t as flawless as for The Bad Boys’ “ROCK the Ballet” bill several seasons ago. At the Saturday evening performance I attendended there was a technical glitch that stalled the show for minutes near its start. What is described as the production’s “soundtrack” has been pulled from different musical and noise scores – including Vivaldi’s “The 4 Seasons” and recent pop hits.
All three performances of this “Romeo and Juliet” on the weekend were under the auspices of the Maryland Concert Series. The auditorium at North County High School seats an audience of 880, and was nearly full on Saturday evening. This was the show’s premiere run in the USA. Rasta Thomas is the producer. The degree of his input as theatrical director wasn’t spelled out in the printed program.