Theatre Review: A Dance of Woe


Romeo & Juliet, written by Sergei Prokofiev (and William Shakespeare); produced by Kansas City Ballet: seen February 17, 2012

William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet is a story that is so well-known, it’s a little disconcerting to realize that there are those out there who don’t know the basic story. The ballet version, written in 1935, is in three acts, and the story – for those who don’t know it – follows the feud between the two families, and the children of each who fall in love. It’s a tragedy that was almost a comedy.

Like the play it’s based on, Act I starts out light and funny, with just a little bit of sweetness to it as Romeo shows his infatuation with Rosalind. We are brought into the feud between the Montagues and Capulets with a stunning fight ballet, with some of the best Flynning I’ve seen on (or off) stage in a long time. This was excellent fight choreography in every definition of the phrase.

Photo by Steve Wilson, and courtesy KC Ballet
Photo by Steve Wilson, and courtesy KC Ballet

But then, of course, the plot intervenes as Romeo shows up at the ball, and the two lovers meet. The dance, with Juliet’s ‘oh-so-casual’ glances in Romeo’s direction, then blushing as she is noticed was excellent acting on the part of both Luke Luzicka and Angelina Sansone, this night’s Romeo & Juliet respectively. Sansone, especially, made every glance toward Romeo filled with a deep sense of longing and romance of the type you only feel during that blush of first love.

The true test of this ballet, though, had to have been the balcony scene, known throughout the world for its dialogue. As always, I try not to compare versions and try to watch this as a production separate from the work it’s based on. Therefore, the romance is played very well, and this is where Luzicka gets his chance to shine.

Act II is where the play starts to get a bit more serious, although there are still a few chuckles here and there (most notably in the chapel scene) and another excellent fight – ending in the deaths of Mercutio and Tybalt. However, this is the transition act between the comedy it starts out as and the tragedy it ends up. Mercutio’s death went on a bit too long for me, but the act overall went rapidly fast.

Finally, Act III is where the drama takes over full-hilt. The scene where Friar Laurence gives Juliet the potion was well done – showing this vital part of the plot via two other dancers to show what should happen. This, I think, is a clever way to get over the ‘not being able to do the lines’ issue that is in this work.

The program notes that at first, the idea of doing a ballet on Romeo & Juliet was rejected because, “Dead people don’t dance”. And I have to say, after seeing Romeo dance with the (near)-dead Juliet, her lifeless body not moving yet still staying fluid with Romeo’s, that that statement is totally incorrect. Dead people can dance, and it is both beautiful and tragic at the same time.

The show was well done, and was the typical high caliber dancing you’d expect from the Ballet. It started out a little sluggish, and it took a little bit for Luzicka to find his legs metaphorically speaking, and the show suffered from a LACC (although I’ve grown to expect those from both the Ballet and the Lyric). However, it was a beautiful piece of work and I heartily recommend it.

Romeo & Juliet plays until February 26, and more information can be found at

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