The Joffrey Ballet Brings A Modern Day 'Romeo & Juliet' To Life

May 3, 2014
Chicagoist
Michelle Maywes

Content

"For never was a story of more woe
Than this of Juliet and her Romeo"

It’s a classic tale, Shakespeare's tragedy, a story we've all heard so many times, told in so many different ways. The outcome is always the same, but knowing the heart wrenching ending never makes the journey any less thrilling. Forbidden young love...it can happen in any time period, in any place where there is political or civil strife.

To close out their “Masters of Dance” season, the Joffrey Ballet has chosen a Romeo & Juliet by Polish choreographer Krzysztof Pastor, who sets the ill-fated couple in different decades spanning 20th-century Italy. The couple and their families begin in the 1930’s in black and white and pick up in a colorful, optimistic 1950’s before moving on to a darker 1990’s. Video imagery from each respective time period is projected onto the backdrop prior to each act, setting the tone for the scenes to come.

It’s a striking Romeo & Juliet, full of grace in all the right places with tension and conflict throughout. Fittingly, the most compelling were the fight and death scenes. While somewhat long, the drawn-out scenes often escalated violence to a level unexpected in story ballet. There were some interesting interpretations including a dramatic moment that leaves Juliet standing eerily alone among the still bodies of her community. The scene is repeated later in the piece with much gloom as the alluded deaths become actualized.

As always, the Joffrey cast executed choreography perfectly and with much emotion. To tell such a literary story without any of the well-known words of Shakespeare requires skill, and they are just as much thespians as dancers.

The Joffrey Ballet's Romeo & Juliet is now playing at the Auditorium Theatre (50 E. Congress Pkwy.) through Sunday, May 11. Tickets are $31 to $50.