The Perfect Valentine's Weekend Plan

I saw Romeo et Juliette and it's wonderfully wordless...

February 10, 2016

The Pacific Northwest Ballet made a boring story I know from school into something beautiful. Ok, so Romeo and Juliet is not boring, I just have lame memories of being forced to read early-modern English about characters that I couldn't understand. Then there was that movie with Leo and Claire*, and that too was crap. 

What bored me as a child about this love story revolved around the language and the non-natural way they spoke it. That seems odd now considering the job I've chosen. To see the dancers communicate everything through physical expression turned this tale into something much more emotional for me. PNB kindly invited me to attend the opening night of fun at McCaw Hall. As a giant child, I'm learning to be a better adult by adding an appreciation for fine art to my repertoire of cartoons and Seattle sports. 

Awesome sculpture at McCaw Hall

This performance of Romeo et Juliette isn't the ornate version that you may already be familiar with. Instead, PNB takes a beautiful, modern approach featuring a simple, understated set. Masterful, subtle use of lighting steers mood around the hall without leaning on complicated sets. As someone who's killed my hearing at a million concerts, sometimes the skillful lighting becomes an extra member of the act dragging out emotion or lighting up room to match a peak in performance. R&J nailed it. 

I'm not sure how other ballet companies work, but hearing the sounds of a live orchestra adds one extra unpredictable element - humans! A trumpet too loud, the drums a hair too soon at a big crashing moment - these are things that enrich a performance, and I'm grateful that PNB still uses them!

Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancers Noelani Pantastico and James Moore in Jean-Christophe Maillot’s Roméo et Juliette

And finally, let's not forget about the on-stage performers. Though they've spent their lives dancing - probably 20-30 years worth of damaged feet and sore knees each - these performers playing Romeo, Juliette, Tybalt, Mercutio deserve recognition for their acting. The range of audience emotions from gentle smiles, charmed giggles, and the lone tear gently cascading down faces watching two characters fall in love made me better appreciate the skills these dancers wield. Principal dancers James Moore (Romeo) and Noelani Pantastico (Juliette) seem born to play these roles. The love on stage must be difficult to keep out of personal lives as their skills make it seem genuine. I had previously seen James as a soloist for "The Calling" and knew he could command a crowd, but this is next level.

It's the perfect event to take your squeeze or hopeful-squeeze to this weekend as love swirls around in McCaw Hall.

*wait, did I just see Paul Rudd in that preview?