There’s something about going to the ballet that feels so delightfully refined. This weekend, The Music Center enjoyed a cheerful buzz as fans of the National Ballet of Canada took their seats for five performances of classical ballet Romeo & Juliet. It might be the only work of performing art in which the entire audience goes in happy, knowing full well that the beloved protagonists won’t make it out alive.
But Romeo & Juliet as a ballet is more than just the story. It’s a demonstration of exquisite technique and emotional investment by the entire cast that makes this long-told tale of star crossed lovers believable. Chelsy Mais and McGee Maddox, who performed in the Saturday matinee show we saw, are obviously mature dancers, yet perfectly captured the childlike and enthusiastic passion of a young and impossible romance. Maddox is a principle dancer with the company, newly promoted this year. Meiss is a second soloist: technically two ranks under principle, but certainly doesn’t dance like it. She fluttered around the stage for the full three acts like it was the easiest thing in the world, never missing a step, playful look, or longing gaze.
And it wasn’t just the leads who so seamlessly brought you in to their world. As much as we were on Juliet’s balcony, we were in the square dancing with the citizens of Verona, watching fights and catching up on gossip. The corps worked amazingly well together, and made everyone feel cheerful even as poor Friar Lawrence’s plan was going horribly wrong (their bright, sprightly costumes didn’t hurt either). Another more than notable performance was that of Keiichi Hirano, who infused hot-headed yet endearing gusto and humor into Mercutio’s character.
The ballet as a whole was a lovely way to spend a Saturday afternoon. Choreography by Alexei Ratmansky maintained the classic finesse of ballet with an added touch of unexpected moves and sequences audiences don’t usually get but crave more of. As always, watching dance at The Music Center was a wonderful experience. To stay up-to-date with upcoming performances and ticket sales, see their website here.