Ballet Maribor in Radio and Juliet at Jacob’s Pillow
July 1, 2009 performance reviewed by Jocelyn McGrath.
Sexy rather than romantic, out of time rather than inevitable, …
We walk through the door as if entering a dream. The impressionistic black and white video gives us clues, but no clear facts. For a long time, we watch glamorous close-ups of a woman, Juliet. She is lying on a bed, sits meditatively curled up on a windowsill. We watch her remembering. On stage, six men present themselves in turn. We all know the story. Which one is Romeo? When Juliet finally walks in person onto the stage, it is like finally meeting a movie star. We know her face so well, and already care. 2014 Jacob’s Pillow schedule, Contact info. and links
Sexy rather than romantic, out of time rather than inevitable, choreographer Edward Clug’s dance response to the classic tale of Romeo and Juliet doesn’t describe a bond of true love between one special man and one special woman. Instead the piece systematically breaks down the singularity of Romeo.
Each of the six men walks through the role, often literally, as in a wedding scene where each one walks up the aisle to briefly hold Juliet’s hand. Or each running in turn to a spot right behind her while she undulates in a quiet rapture. Romeo becomes a tribe, a gang—aggressive and internally counterbalanced between the protagonist and the antagonist.
That these dancers are all exceptional soloists with the Ballet Maribor of Slovenia is clear in the brilliant technical ballet vocabulary—the leaps, the tour en l’air, multiple pirouettes—all put to use to create such a different visual and emotional impact than in classical ballet. Tijuana Kriszman, as Juliet and the sole female dancer, displays such expressive feet that the simple act of walking—at one point through her band of Romeos swaying as if they were a small forest—is mesmerizing. Simple effects are contrasted with windmilling, sinuous arm movements, both mechanistic and sensual. Delicate hand gestures unwind into sharp, whipping extensions. The combined speed and aggression of these male dancers is thrilling, and the heart of the piece culminates in a magnificent fight sequence. Right after, the brawl is replayed in reverse on a video screen, while Romeo stands alone, the image of regret.
The visual motifs are urban, graphic, edgy. Juliet is corseted, first in white, then in red. The men dance uniformly in black suit pants and tuxedo jackets, the dim lighting contrasting with the flash of purple lining, accentuating the deep V of white torso or the blurring arcs of the dancers hands.
Relatively short at a running time of one hour without intermission, this piece is a complete experience. Released from the literal narrative of the original story, the open end pulls time, so that there is no sense of rushing or dreading the inevitable conclusion. In a similar way, the choice of music by Radiohead, the multiple Grammy-award-winning, alternative rock band, allows for more subtle and interesting interpretations of such classic characters. The music is at times an atmospheric soundscape, at other times a modern, driving, rhythmic and textural force.
The last moments of the piece end with the sound of the patter of rain. (Something that in this place and time, could drive one to despair…) Juliet is left on stage with the body of her one Romeo, her last Romeo. Her hand flutters her madness; she has already consumed her poison. We wait with her, to see what happens next.