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BALLET WEST CAPITOL THEATRE, SALT LAKE CITY, UT FEBRUARY 10-18, 2006

Jonas Kage's world premiere of Romeo and Juliet takes a cinematic approach and ultimately a fresh look at a familiar story. Armed with an accumulated knowledge of the ballet (he danced Romeo in MacMillan's, Cranko's, and Nureyev's versions), Kage's adaptation is unmistakably his own.

Each scene is staged to organically shape and reshape the visual plane, building physical momentum toward an emotional pitch. In the moment when Juliet is transfixed by Romeo's gaze, the background choreography slows and guides the scene's energy to the principals.

Kage did not attempt such severe choreographic changes as to turn this ballet on its ear, but he updated it in feel, making it boldly sensuous. In the bedroom pas de deux, Romeo, wrapped around Juliet from behind, guides her hand up her leg and across her body, past her open lips and into his mouth, as if tasting her love. Juliet is not a child who gets tossed and turned into a woman by fate, but a thoughtful teenager who makes a bad choice. As a director, Kage asks the dancers to attack and push the choreography, not be led by it.

These devices, however, do not become a substitute for meaty choreography. Kage's work is demanding, and Ballet West has become a precision company that meets the challenge. Additional dancers from Ballet West II, Ballet West Academy, and such wonderfully seasoned dancers as Peter Christie (as Lord Capulet) create a cast that feels authentic in age and character. In particular, demi-soloist Kate Crews, as the Red Harlot, is a refreshingly free dancer.

Each Juliet brings her own characterization to the role. Michiyo Hayashi clearly develops Juliet from child to woman through her lithe body, expressiveness, and flawless technique. With Seth Olsen as her unwavering partner, the lifts are seamless. Olsen runs to scoop Hayashi in his arms, pressing her over his head; her arching back spills over his hands and her developpe extends beyond the lights.

Peggy Dolkas' sensuous Juliet, partnered by Christopher Ruud, makes a muddy transition from child to woman. But their pas de deux as newlyweds is electrifying. Ruud is a raucous Romeo who sails through the difficult choreography in the balcony scene.

Kage fleshes out Mercutio's character through a longer than usual death scene, giving him a wider range of emotions. Hua Zhuang conceived the character as a tall, lanky hedonist who mercilessly taunts Tybalt (danced beautifully by Michael Bearden), while Jeff Herbig's hyperactive, annoying Mercutio scoffs at Tybalt even as he dies.

The costumes by David Heuvel, rich in texture and color, informed the story and gave the processionals substance. See www.balletwest.org.
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Title Annotation:Jonas Kage's Romeo and Juliet
Author:Adams, Kathy
Publication:Dance Magazine
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2006
Words:447
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