Beginnings and endings mark Orlando Ballet’s upcoming performances of 'Romeo and Juliet.'
Of all the stories retold through dance, perhaps none has better transcended the centuries with the capacity to deeply move audiences as Romeo & Juliet. Orlando Ballet brings Shakespeare’s tragedy of star-crossed lovers to the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts for the first time the weekend of February 9-11.
The company last performed the ballet, choreographed by Artistic Director Robert Hill, in 2013 but this time audiences will see it as it is meant to be experienced, with the lush Prokofiev score performed live by the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra. “The score tells you exactly what the couple is going through,” says principal dancer Chiaki Yasukawa, whose portrayal as Juliet at the Saturday evening show will be her final bow after 17 seasons with Orlando Ballet. Her Romeo will be guest artist Dmitri Dovgoselets of Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet, who was last in Orlando to stage Val Canaparoli’s “A Cinderella Story” for the company last spring.
“With live music, the story can be so much more dramatic and vivid,” says Yasukawa. Plus, returning guest conductor Ramona Pansegrau from the Kansas City Ballet brings a nuanced understanding of ballet. Explains Yasukawa, “She knows the steps, she asks about the dancer’s approach, where the dancers want to be seen. She’ll ask questions such as `Will this be a balance?’ She can adjust the tempo slower or faster to allow the dancer to really shine.”
While dancers are trained to work under all conditions, performing with an orchestra, an experienced ballet conductor and in a state-of-the-art theater designed specifically with the needs of the ballet company in mind is the ideal trifecta for dancers and the audience. “Walking into the theater and hearing the sound of the orchestra tuning, for me, that is part of the total experience,” says Hill.
While the title characters are depicted as teenagers, dancers Yasukawa and Dovgoselets are anything but. Between them they have some four decades of performing under their belts and plenty of life experience. “Romeo’s role comes with maturity,” says Dovgoselets. “If I had done it 10 years ago, it wouldn’t be the same as now. I think it takes the experience of feelings – passion and love – outside the ballet to understand it.”
While younger dancers can often deliver technical fireworks, more seasoned dancers bring “a maturity and understanding of the craft,” says Hill. For instance, “There are many moments for Juliet where she is not moving but some poignant information has to cross the footlights (be communicated to the audience). You can’t teach that in a studio.”
Yasukawa may be ending her stage career but will immediately return to Orlando Ballet to complete a four-month marketing fellowship for hands-on training to help her begin a new career.
Two casts will share principal billing. While Yasukawa and Dovgoselets claim the spotlight for the Saturday evening performance, Kate Robichaux and Arcadian Broad, who was just named Orlando Ballet’s first Artist in Residence, will play the title roles in the Friday night and Sunday matinee performances.
Performances are Friday, February 9 at 8 p.m., Saturday, February 10 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, February 11 at 2 p.m. Tickets for “Romeo andJuliet” start at $19. Click here to purchase or call the Dr. Phillips Center box office at 844-513-2014.