REVIEW: “Romeo & Juliet” – elegant and timeless


TFM Review: Ballet Manila’s Romeo and Juliet by Nikki Francisco

Romeo and Juliet Ballet Manila

I have to be honest, Ballet Manila’s “Romeo and Juliet” is the first ever classical ballet performance I’ve ever been to. Short of films like Center Stage and Black Swan, I know nothing. That said, this particular art form has always intrigued me. There’s just something so innately sophisticated and classy about the whole thing. Add to that, applied to the most classic play from history’s most classic playwright? I was sold.

That was the main draw for me, really— to watch a story I know well through a medium I knew nothing about. I wondered how Shakespeare’s iconic story would fare without his iconic words. Would I understand it? Would the timeless scenes have the same weight and impact in dance form as it does when it’s traditionally performed? Will the youth and tragedy and romance of these star-crossed lovers translate when they cannot utter the lines that have made them literature’s quintessential young couple?

Romeo and Juliet
Abigail Oliveiro (Juliet) and Brian Williamson (Romeo) in the iconic balcony scene

The answer: yes.

It’s a credit to the company that they were able to move and emote so well that you can almost hear Shakespeare’s immortal words through the choreography. Paul Vasterling said audience members can expect a really clear telling of Shakespeare— and that is exactly what they have accomplished.

Romeo and Juliet
Abigail Oliveiro playing a graceful Juliet

Personally, I loved the big numbers where the entire company was on stage, dancing with a breath-taking synchronicity casual audiences like me have come to love and expect from dance productions.

The show had no shortage of dance duets, lead by the eponymous characters of Romeo (Ruby De Dios) and Juliet (Katherine Barkman). They moved so beautifully with each other. Their performances at the start and end of act 3 were particularly mesmerising.

Romeo and Juliet
Katherine Barkman as Juliet and Rudy de Dios as Romeo

It’s so interesting to watch a story unfold before your eyes with as much clarity as it would have if the actors were speaking. In fact, this staging revealed a plot point I missed, despite the many different ways I’ve encountered Romeo and Juliet over the years (the secret romance between Lady Capulet and Tybalt). Where it was too subtle or even omitted in other versions of the play, this connection was hard to miss in this production. With Ms. Lisa Macuja’s uncontested stage presence drawing your eye whenever she’s on stage, Lady Capulet is pulled into focus unlike ever before.

Lisa Macuja-Elizalde
Lisa Macuja-Elizalde as Lady Capulet experiencing unspeakable loss

Ballet Manila’s staging of “Romeo and Juliet”, accompanied by the Manila Symphony Orchestra playing the music of Sergei Prokofiev, has proven the old adage to be true: that love is the universal language. Even without words, Shakespeare’s classic lost none of its poetry and romance.

Were you able to catch this production? What did you think?

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