A profoundly moving Romeo and Juliet

Denise Parungao and Joseph Gatti in Romeo and Juliet.Exquisite partnership. Photo by Justin Bella Alonte.

Saturday last week, balletomanes enjoyed a rare ballet Valentine treat through a revival of a 1981 production of “Romeo and Juliet” by choreographer Alice Reyes, now National Artist for Dance.

When the curtains went up to reveal the market place of Verona in Act I, there was a collective gasp of admiration for the revived Salvador Bernal set made possible with grant from LV Locsin Partners.

Indeed, the beautiful set occupied every nook and cranny of the main theater stage and looking even more grand and stately with the exquisite lighting of Katsch S.J. Catoy.

Another big production value was the presence of the Manila Symphony Orchestra under Marlon Chen who gave a vibrant reading of the Prokofiev score. It used to be that the orchestra is often seen and heard as a faint distant sound from the orchestra pit. It was quite revealing that the orchestra started with a distinct, if, robust sound in the andante assai introduction and remaining taut and in total sync with the dancers.

Moreover, the initial fight scene between members of the Montagues and Capulet families set the tone of the ballet.

The impressive entrance of Joseph Gatti in the Ballroom Scene was an assurance this was going to be an evening of good acting and dancing. There was something about the danseur’s brand of dancing that defines the character he was portraying. The youthful ardor was there for everyone to see and when he does a good elevation, there is no doubt this guest Romeo can act as well as dance in what looks like a compleat portrayal.

Denise Parungao’s entrance in the Ballroom Scene was a positive assurance that her Juliet would be something different. The face radiates a profile of a maiden in early bloom. But behind that youthful stance is a kind of vulnerability that somehow enhanced the role she was playing.

Denise Parungao as Juliet. Luminous and ethereal as the Shakespeare heroine. Photo by Ballet Philippines.

The initial pas de deux was magical with her brisk, if, lyrical turns matched by Gatti’s highly solid, if, competent partnership.

The best part would transport one to the most magical part of the ballet, the Balcony Scene.

There was more than rapport in the way they interacted and framed by the grand Salvador Bernal set, they projected two tragic characters deeply in love. Revealing a most intricate choreography in this pas de deux, you wish that this part of the ballet would go on forever. The larghetto marking in the music was played to its most haunting effect and the dancers revealed a high level of musicality.

Tragic as it looks, the Tomb Scene is scary with that look of deep longing projected by the dancing of Parungao. Her Juliet exudes layers of endless love and her dancing was a joy to watch. The Romeo of Gatti is equally well-defined. The few times when good acting and exquisite dancing mix!

The choreography of Alice Reyes hinges on the classical and contemporary. After a little over four decades (the Alice Reyes choreography was first seen in 1981), the mark of a classic was there for everyone to see and relive.

The Ballet Philippines ensemble of the feuding families in Romeo and Juliet.

As it turned out, Ballet Philippines’ Romeo and Juliet was a more compelling and meaningful attraction compared to the plethora of other Valentine offerings in Metro Manila.

As the choreographer implored in her message, “The mystery of love is really the art of giving unconditionally. As Romeo and Juliet gave each other the love that would sustain them in a world of turmoil and unpredictability, so do we give to those we love, cherish and believe in.”

(Alice Reyes’s Romeo and Juliet will have its last weekend run on Saturday, February 23 at 2 and 7 p.m. and on Sunday February 24 at 2 p.m. It will feature the Romeos of Victor Maguad and Ian Ocampo and the Juliet of Jemima Reyes and Monica Gana.Call TicketWorld for tickets at 8919999 or the CCP Box Office at 8321125.)


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