Dance of Love

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Love was in the air this weekend at the Music Center’s Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, where American Ballet Theatre staged Romeo and Juliet. Roberto Bolle, the company’s newest male principal dancer, and Irina Dvorovenko had the title roles in Thursday’s opening-night performance. ABT is flush with such talent, in fact, that the leads varied with each successive program: On Friday evening, Marcelo Gomes and Paloma Herrera; on Saturday, Cory Stearns and Hee Seo (matinee) and David Hallberg and Paloma Herrera (evening); and for Sunday’s matinee, Herman Cornejo and Xiomara Reyes.

On opening night the production came to life with beautiful choreography by Sir Kenneth MacMillan, the classic music of Sergei Prokofiev, and elaborate scenery and costumes reminiscent of an Italian Renaissance painting (think golds and tans, rich greens and purples). Bolle, who is Italian and hails from La Scala ballet company in Milan, was a powerful presence onstage—strong, handsome, expressive. (Yes, indeed, he lived up to the media hype that has preceded his L.A. debut.) In his arms, Dvorovenko’s Juliet was as light and pure as fresh snow, and when she reached for him from her balcony, the audience (packed with couples on dates and young ballet students) seemed to melt, too. When was the last time a theater fell so silent?

Sure, I wanted to hear Shakespeare’s heart-stirring lines (“Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou, Romeo?” or “This is but a dream, too flattering-sweet to be substantial”). For those, I’ll have to re-read the play. Here ballet (plus a whole lot of pantomime and skillful sword fights) told the story of the star-crossed lovers. Act 1, which ended with that famous balcony scene, was especially terrific—filled with tension, drama, innocence, and even some humor. They’re the ingredients, after all, for finding true love.

Photographs by MIRA (this page) and Gene Schaivone