Misty Copeland as "Juliet"
I must admit, I’m a little behind on the Misty Copeland craze. I’ve seen her dance plenty of times and know her to be a fine dancer.
But it was not until American Ballet Theatre’s “Romeo and Juliet” on Saturday afternoon that I had the opportunity to see her in a lead role. And she deserve all the accolades and fans that have gathered at her beautifully, well-appointed feet.
Copeland is a dream Juliet. Her supple frame and gorgeous technique means she can throw herself with abandon into the arms of her Romeo, soar to the imaginary stars at their romance and stagger in despair over their impossible future.
But it is her acting abilities that make fans go misty for Misty. She transformed into a naive youth, smitten beyond all reason and so desperate in her love that she would embrace death before a life without Romeo. She was convincing.
So too was her partner, the equally amazing Daniil Simkin. He portrayed an ardent lover whose every caress and kiss trembled with a reverence for her and his luck to have found her. Simkin and Copeland simmered. I loved their chemistry.
Their artistic choices were inherent in the choreography by Kenneth MacMillan. In the balcony scene, one can see the shift from infatuation at the ball to true love. As he lifts her, she bends backwards over him, sending her foot skyward, again and again, signally their divine destiny as one, forever. And the kiss, one of adoration and desire, binds their union and disastrous fate.
Less impressive were the roles of Mercutio and Tybalt, danced by Arron Scott as and Roman Zhurbin. MacMillan focuses so precisely on the love, that the hatred between the Capulets and Montagues isn’t sharp. Even though Zhurbin’s body language clearly spoke loathing, the sword battle in the first act came off as staged, not a duel to the death of feuding families.
In addition, Scott sported Mercutio’s devil-may-care attitude. But his jumps, a specialty of Mercutio, were not clean or hearty. Scott looked labored.
The costumes and setting by Nicholas Georgiadis were incredible. He offered much for the eye to take in. From the billowing layers of fabric on the ball attire to the moving frieze that stood watch over the activity at the town square lent the ballet a rich, animated look.
Of course, the Prokofiev music, as conducted by Ormsby Wilkins, was well played. The orchestra dug deep to capture all the texture in the delicate passages for Romeo and Juliet alone and the frightening crashes when the two families clashed.
But what made this performance so special was Copeland and Simkin. Together, they were heart-breakingly wonderful.