ABT dances Romeo and Juliet

Last night I saw American Ballet Theater dance Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet. The New York Times has a pretty derisive review of it today, but I liked their description of the production as a "workhorse". It's true-- it's a very traditional, theatrical production. It's the kind of production your boyfriend is thinking of when he rolls his eyes at the thought of going to the ballet.

But the music is incredible. Prokofiev wrote two ballets, this one and Cinderella, and I love both of them so much. Even though I absolutely know Prokofiev was working in the early decades of the 20th century, I'm always surprised to remember it for some reason. Somewhere in my mind I think he lived in the 19th century, but it isn't true and there are lots of influences in his music to remind me of it. Early pop standards, Stravinsky, jazz. Prokofiev reminds me of Douglas Sirk because they both have this talent for hiding the sinister inside the saccharine... the love theme from Romeo and Juliet is a great example of this I think. It's way too much... swelled to the point of soap operatic, like it's poking fun at itself. I think he's much more earnest in little peeking moments... Juliet's dance with Paris at the ball is lovely, all chimes and flutes, light and moving beat to beat, little teenager's heartbeat. Or the couples' dance in Act II, which has this funny little chasing phrase in it. Like, lifting the edge of something to peer under it. He does this a lot.

The song of the knights at the ball-- this is the one that always makes it onto "Top 100 Classical Hits" compilations-- is the heaviest bloodflow of a song I've ever heard. It's like a river of blood just washing and washing over the stage. I love the choreography for it in the ABT production because it's just this slow, steady dance by the whole company and it looks incredible in costume. Like an army of late Medieval, early Renaissance paintings. That kind of heavy stillness.

And there's this phrase Prokofiev repeats over and over right at the end of the ballet-- in the ABT choreography it's when Juliet is stretching over the top of her tomb to touch Romeo's hand before she dies-- and it's so beautiful. The movement, but really the music. It's so quiet and calming, like a very sad lullaby. That's another thing I love about the score-- it seems to stress that these are kids, more than a little unaware of the consequences of their actions. Romeo and Juliet is one of those stories where the real tragedy is that it didn't have to be a tragedy.

Gillian Murphy danced Juliet. I thought she was lovely. It's funny because, she's so tall, it makes some things look ridiculous-- like her jumping into her nurse's lap-- and it makes other things look amazing, like when she reaches her arms up from the floor to clasp her father's neck in a plea not to marry Paris. These long, white arms just stretching and stretching. Juliet is a part with a lot of acting in it compared to the lead in other ballets, but the moments when she really dances were lovely. All the sinewy, flustered turns &lifts in the balcony scene with that pretty, thin skirt fluttering around her in the blue light.

Lincoln Center looks wonderful. The new LED banners on the risers of the front steps are a soft, cold white, and the new fountain is lovely at night. Afterwards I went to the Manhattan Center to say hello to some friends at the final night of Amma's annual visit to the city, but I had to leave and listen to the ballet on my headphones outside for a few minutes because it was way too much to go from ABT to a 24-hour kirtan in 45 minutes. New York is insane.