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"Romeo and Juliette" Gotta Lotta Love at PNB's Love Stories
Oh, ballet. It's so hard to do! So gruelingly technical! And so often... flat. At least to me. I always prefer modern and contemporary dance (which are not the same thing!) to classical ballet. And I think that's because classical ballet so often feels like all technique, no emotional connection. (Indeed, sometimes contemporary dance fails precisely because does the exact opposite: exhibits tons of emotion with no real skill.)
Classical ballet is show-offy by nature. If you spent all those hours honing your technique and breaking your body down, you'd want to show off too. But astounding technique only carries my interest so far. I think, "Wow, that's really hard. Yep, I bet that's hard, too. Mm hm... zzz." It's like Olympic ice skating—those people who are solely focused on landing fancy jumps ultimately aren't that interesting.
When I go to a performance I want to experience a connection with the people on stage. That happened a couple times at PNB's "Love Stories," which features five famous pas de deux between supposedly enamored couples. But while all the pieces were very pretty to look at and beautifully executed, few were emotionally captivating.
There are a couple moments in Balanchine's Divertimento from "Le Baiser de la Fee" that grabbed me—both of which happen after things seem to turn sour for the previously giddy couple. First, when Jonathan Porretta (the male lead) sort of half carries partner Kaori Nakamura across the stage, as if she's slipping from his grasp. Her legs spider out, crawling in front of them in a grotesque, insect-like way, as if she's trying to pull away from him and stay in his arms all at once—it's gripping. I keep thinking about it. Then again, in the final scene, the two lovers move slowly in opposite directions across the floor, spines arched impossibly backward, rounded arms reaching, eyes cast upward searching, searching... as if looking for the love they once had. Powerful.
But the award for most convincing emotional connection overall goes to "Romeo et Juliette" (choreography by Jean-Christophe Maillot), danced by Lucien Postlewaite and Kaori Nakamura. Oh, man, did they convey the thrill of teenagers in love! They flirted and teased, made out and pulled apart... seemed, in fact, so enraptured they had no idea there was a whole audience watching (hence, no showing off). And when Romeo places his cheek against Juliette's foot, then drags it slowly up the length of her leg, up her torso, all the way to her shoulder—hubba hubba.