ABT's week of Romeo and Juliet got off to a strong start last evening with Julie Kent, Marcelo Gomes and Herman Cornejo in the leads and a superb supporting cast of Gennadi Saveliev, Carlos Lopez, Sascha Radetsky, Stella Abrera and Victor Barbee.
Haglund admires so many aspects of Kent's dancing in this production, most notably her beautiful arabesque lines and expressive port de bras. Marcelo was outstanding in his solos, whipping his turns and leaps with enormous energy. The dancing was a joy to watch; however, the overall quality of their portrayals was more grand and royal than young and desperately in love. There's never been any need for a ballerina to actually be young in this role, and in fact, many older dancers have given richer and more meaningful portrayals of young love than most of the younger casts. One aspect of Kent's performance which Haglund has never been able to accept happily is the Act III bedroom scene in which Juliet is supposed to lean against the bed motionless while the Prokofiev music whirls around her. It is one of the most emotional and compelling moments in the ballet. Kent, instead of staring straight out at the audience, rolls her head around and blinks into the lights and thus destroys the intended dramatic effect of the moment. Whatever the reason Kent has declined to perform this moment in the ballet as it should be, and as it is most effective, let's hope that none of the younger dancers coming up in this role ever follows her example.
Herman Cornejo and the Mandolin Players were excellent. All of those hopping turns in attitude just looked fantastic. In fact, Haglund really didn't begin paying full attention to what was going on on the stage until Cornejo started dancing. Can't wait to see him with Xiomara on Wednesday evening.
This week's performances are dedicated to Georgina Parkinson, longtime coach and ballet mistress, who expired last year. Audiences knew her more recently as Lady Capulet, although she performed the title role of Juliet to great acclaim many years earlier with the Royal Ballet. Last night's Lady Capulet was performed with astonishing drama by Stella Abrera. Haglund noted Abrera's ability to walk exactly like the elderly Parkinson walked down the stairs in a rush to get to the dead Tybalt. Her moments of terror, anger and sobbing grief would have given Ms. Parkinson a run for her money.
Haglund will update this review with his selection for the Pump Bump Award just as soon as his computer with its shoe closet is returned from the shop.
During the evening Haglund kept hearing a gentleman behind him explaining to his guests that the fantastic actress in the role of Lady Capulet was Stella Abrera and he went on to explain what a tremendously talented dancer she is. Then, on the way down the steps after the performance, Haglund heard another man remarking what a powerful performance Stella had given during the evening. People are aware of Stella's talent and abilities – not from hype manufactured by the media or by ABT – but as the result of seeing her dancing over the years. She has come by her reputation honestly, through dancing that employs integrity and reliability and is just freakin' gorgeous to watch. So, Haglund has climbed to the top shelf of his shoe closet to fish out this lovely Pump Bump Award of lace and pearls for the lovely Stella: