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Dance review: San Francisco's 'Romeo and Juliet' at Segerstrom

October 1, 2011 |  1:57 pm

Romeo and Juliet
Audiences flock to ballet versions of “Romeo and Juliet,” despite their inevitable flaws and the difficulties of translating Shakespeare’s words into danced poetry. 

To wring tears from the ending, this over-saturated ballet needs doomed lovers of new-found conviction. San Francisco Ballet’s Joan Boada and Maria Kochetkova were more than persuasive Friday night during the company’s concluding program at Segerstrom Center for the Arts.

Boada’s Romeo was a doe-eyed and insistent romantic, a nobleman of a different type than his more hedonistic pals Benvolio (the likable Jaime Garcia Castilla) and Mercutio (Gennadi Nedvigin). Boada’s steadfastness as a partner -– notice that splendid one-handed lift -- outweighed his qualities as a soloist. His passion, however, increased as the story progressed and watching this love bloom was its own reward.  His fiery duel with Tybalt felt improvised. 

Photos: 'Romeo and Juliet' at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts

Kochetkova’s Juliet developed from an antsy, romping child to a knowing woman. She is a strong actress without histrionics –- her face was one moment flooded with delight, as love dawned, and then crestfallen, as her duty to her family became inescapable. Her dancing was flawless, and always in service to being Juliet. A lovely performance. Together, this couple rocketed from their ballroom encounter to reckless destiny. The beautiful crypt scene was particularly potent.

Juliet The company’s last local performances of this “Romeo and Juliet” were at the Los Angeles Music Center in November 1994, shortly after its premiere.  Choreographer and Artistic Director Helgi Tomasson has strategically plotted out every scene with a reverence for the text and character development.  There is great logic to the action, which is appreciated, but not always the heart-stopping lyricism one would want. 

Still, Tomasson’s more naturalistic approach to the characters is an improvement. The Capulets and Friar Laurence are less wooden, for example. Similarly, Tybalt is a hothead, but not a sadist.  Damian Smith was riveting as this fist-clenching provocateur. Nedvigin was a sweetly rakish Mercutio -– and his terrific pirouettes were a bonus. 

The supporting players were exceptionally strong, and the corps de ballet brought enthusiastic vigor to the crowd scenes (including one great “cat” fight between a harlot and townswoman). Sofiane Sylve portrayed Lady Capulet with elegance and deep feeling. Val Caniparoli was a sympathetic Lord Capulet, a leader unable to control circumstances.

Jens-Jacob Worsaae’s Renaissance costume designs are opulent, as is the ballroom setting, with its gorgeous tapestry backdrop. The public square, on the other hand, feels too cramped, while Juliet’s balcony resembles a drop from a sheer cliff. Thomas Skelton’s lighting designs believably take the viewer from day to night.

San Francisco Ballet Music Director Martin West took the musicians of the Pacific Symphony through Sergei Prokofiev’s challenging score with assurance, although the string section had its wan moments.

--Laura Bleiberg

San Francisco Ballet, Helgi Tomasson’s “Romeo & Juliet,” Segerstrom Center for the Arts, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa. 8 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday. $17-$120. Contact: (714) 556-2787 or Running time: 2 hours 40 minutes.

Photos: San Francisco Ballet dancers Joan Boada as Romeo, and Maria Kochetkova, as Juliet, in "Romeo and Juliet" at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times