As I entered the lobby of the Auditorium Theatre at Roosevelt University on my way to see one of the most memorable performances that I can remember, Krzysztof Pastor’s Romeo & Juliet set to the music of Sergei Prokofiev, I stopped by the “shoe” table. While I was waiting for my husband, I had the chance to talk with two lovely and engaging women who have volunteered with the Joffrey Ballet for a long time. Mary P. Egan, C.P.A has been a volunteer since 2010. Doris Pandorie Rolland has been a dedicated arts volunteer with the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago and the Joffrey Academy since 2012 and assists with many special events and artistic projects that the Joffrey has. Prior to volunteering, Doris was the Joffrey Middle School Dance Coordinator in 2000.
The signed ballet shoes on the Development Table catch visitor’s attention and then the warm and friendly volunteers do the rest. A tax deductable donation of $30 will go to the Joffrey Ballet. There was also a free raffle, which included a dance class or visiting a Tech rehearsal.
With William Shakespeare’s 450 birthday barely past, this production is one of many events in an around Chicago being held in Shakespeare’s honor. I believe that William Shakespeare would have been thrilled along with the rest of the audience had he been able to witness this fabulous performance.
This U.S. Premiere of Krzysztof Pastor’s Romeo & Juliet was outstanding. Pastor, Director of the Polish National Ballet and Resident Choreographer of the Dutch National Ballet, originally created this new version of Romeo & Juliet in 2008 for the Scottish Ballet. His work has never before been seen in Chicago. Romeo & Juliet runs for 10 performances only at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University, 50 East Congress Parkway, April 30 – May 11.
This ballet in three acts is a contemporary rendition of the classic Shakespearean tale is set in Italy. The use of the multimedia video backdrop that depicts three different political eras of the 20th century is powerful and effective. The three time periods are shown to emphasize the timeless tale of love and loss.
In this ballet Pastor’s counterpoint of the star-crossed lovers and real world politics heightens the universal plight – applicable to lovers from any conflicting background, political, ethnic, religious or otherwise – and amplifies the metaphor of a group sacrificing its individuals for the sake of divisive politics. Though most people are familiar with the Romeo and Juliet story, I was interested in exploring how we tell the tale today,” said Ashley Wheater, Joffrey Ballet Artistic Director. “If a story is universal, it will translate to our time and our language: in this case, the language of classical ballet with a contemporary accent. As with Lar Lubovitch’s Othello, the narrative is explained through physical movement, rather than traditional mime. The action is driven by Prokofiev's brilliant score, brought to full realization by Maestro Scott Speck and the Chicago Philharmonic.”
Whether ballet is part of your experience or not, this is a production that is likely to captivate you from the moment you walk in through the end. At least that was my experience and my companion’s who is less "ballet savvy". The deep, intense score, which Sergei Prokofiev was forced to alter numerous times, is so captivating that it is still in my head after several days. The music, which is performed live by the Chicago Philharmonic with Joffrey Music Director Scott Speck conducting, was outstanding in its performance of this complex music which perfectly captures Shakespeare’s meaning.
The dancing was so skilled it seemed absolutely effortless, and all of the movement was in service of the story, which was told very clearly. The sets, costuming, and choreography perfectly matched to the music, evoked emotions so powerful, the dancing just seemed to happen, and only at the end did I really focus on the gorgeous and skilled dancing. The movements depicted feelings that ranged from tender and romantic to brutal. At times the drama reached operatic intensity. The power of the story became more universal and enveloping both because it covered several historical periods and because of the costuming and the video backdrop. This was a performance to be enjoyed and remembered. Don’t miss it.
Photos: Cheryl Mann
A bit about the choreographer:
Alongside his work for the Dutch National Ballet, Pastor has created ballets for many companies in other countries, such as the Royal Swedish Ballet, Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow, Scottish Ballet, Washington Ballet, Ballet Opera Dresden, Israel Ballet, Royal Flemish Ballet, Ballet of the Polish National Opera in Warsaw, National Ballet of Lithuania, National Ballet of Latvia, Donau Ballet, Hungarian National Ballet, National Theatre in Brno, Ankara State Ballet, Australian Ballet, West Australian Ballet, Royal New Zealand Ballet and Hong Kong Ballet.