PENINSULA SPOTLIGHT: Eugene Ballet’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ on stage in Port Angeles

By Diane Urbani de la Paz
Peninsula Spotlight

With swords, arched backs and willowy limbs, they tell a story of sweet sorrow. This is the definitive tale of fair maiden and smitten man — but wait, it’s not all swooning and kissing.

“Romeo and Juliet,” as staged by the Eugene Ballet Company, is about fighting, loving, living and dying, in the way William Shakespeare portrayed it circa 1595. Only this version is done in dance, without words.

The 27-member cast, led by Aoi Anraku as Romeo and Jennifer Martin as Juliet, creates the drama through bodily grace — lifted by Sergei Prokofiev’s famous score from 1935.

“Romeo and Juliet” arrives at the Port Angeles High School auditorium, 304 E. Park Ave., for a single performance this Saturday night.

Presented by the Juan de Fuca Festival of the Arts, the Eugene Ballet Company will dance it in three acts, beginning at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets range from $15 to $25 for adults and $13 to $22 for youth at Port Book & News, 104 E. First St., Pacific Mist Books at 121 W. Washington St. in Sequim and at www.JFFA.org; details are also on the Juan de Fuca Festival’s Facebook page and at 360-457-5411.

Toni Pimble, the Eugene Ballet Company cofounder who has enjoyed raves for her “Romeo and Juliet” choreography, opens the first act with a brawl. Juliet’s family, the Capulets, and Romeo’s clan, the Montagues, collide at the market, which makes for a rousing start.

The action changes tone, and changes again, with a bedroom scene, the introduction of Juliet and a classic ballroom scene. Then comes a turning point: the balcony pas de deux with the two young lovers-to-be.

“Its about a 10-minute pas de deux,” said Pimble. “It’s almost a tone poem.”

Martin, who has danced in “Romeo and Juliet” twice before this, has seen a multitude of versions of the ballet, staged by her company and others.

“This,” she said, “is my absolute favorite,” for Pimble’s choreography and the acting Martin and the rest of the dancers do.

This “Romeo and Juliet” is an emotional thrill ride, added Pamela Lehan-Siegel, who dances the role of Juliet’s nurse.

The story begins with her as Juliet’s jolly confidante, a bit of comic relief sprinkled into the emotional intensity. And for Lehan-Siegel, who is a tiny dancer, “Romeo and Juliet” has presented a new challenge: moving across the stage in a fat suit. The rather rotund nurse is the one who brings the fateful letter to Juliet, letting her know when to go to the chapel for her wedding to Romeo.

The chapel scene, the wedding night — it seems love matters more than anything, including the names that signify their families’ feud.

After all, “what’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” Shakespeare wrote.

But “these violent delights have violent ends,” he also noted. The Capulets and Montagues fight on, and bravado turns to pure rage. Two men are stabbed, and “in their triumph die, like fire and powder.”

Then, with a vial of deadly potion, the lovers too perish.

Pimble considers “Romeo and Juliet” to be one of the most moving ballets of all time. She believes it appeals to the heart, whether one has been to the ballet many times before, or not at all.

“My experience is that when people who don’t go to the ballet finally go through the door, they are swept away by it. They come out saying, ‘I had no idea,’” she added. In the Eugene Ballet production, “there is a lot of exciting dancing . . . it’s romantic, and it also has very violent scenes. This is one of the great ballets.”

Dan Maguire, executive director of the Juan de Fuca Festival, is over the moon about “Romeo and Juliet’s” Port Angeles engagement. It’s been a very long time — 15 years, he estimated — since a professional ballet company performed here.

The Eugene Ballet wowed him at the Northwest Booking Conference in Bellevue in fall 2010, and he hopes to have such dance companies here in coming years.

Most important, Maguire added: “Romeo and Juliet” is “an incredibly beautiful story.”

Last modified: October 28. 2011 1:12AM
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