Presented with such a triumphant tour de force as Ballet West's current production of "Romeo and Juliet," what can a critic do but capitulate?
The few flaws of opening night, mostly due to lack of seasoning, disappeared during subsequent performances, like mists evaporating in the light of confidence. And one is led by each repetition to see how truly Smuin has interpreted the implications of Prokofiev's music, whose orchestral performance has matured beautifully.
This ballet demands a large, virtuosic corps, dancing street scenes that are complex canvases on which each dancer must slash his individual color. From spirited folk dances to brawls, these scenes are crammed with buoyant vitality and ribald humor; and the dancers' accuracy within abandon gives the measure of the present company, as each delivers a distinct personality beyond the proscenium. These formidable dancers comprise a company that looks as good as Ballet West has ever looked.
Wednesday's performance featured the debut of the Italian dancers Daniela Buson and Marcello Angelini - a joyous occasion. In appearance, chemistry and instinct, they are ideal in their roles, unpretentiously conveying the natural reactions of tender adolescents caught up in a cruel dilemma.
They move together as one, with the authority and nuance of a longstanding partnership, and their fluency and flexibility, the spontaneous play of emotion that ripples between them, all suggest ingenuous lovers, forever young. In short, they are Romeo and Juliet onstage, so effortlessly interpreting Smuin's romantic pas de deux with their tests of strength and courage, that one might underestimate the difficulties.
Indeed those pas de deux are the heart and soul of this ballet, as they are or should be in any romantic ballet; and in his interpretation of the Prokofiev love music, so filled with budding passion and wistful yearning, Smuin rises to his finest heights.
Thursday's cast was led by Jane Wood and Robert Arbogast, whose performances cast new light upon their capabilities. Wood triumphs in her first full-length role, dancing Juliet with a full gamut of girlish emotions and adding to strength a becoming soft sheen of lyric femininity. The actress breaks through her reserve, as Wood communicates more tellingly than ever before.
Arbogast brings to Romeo his strongest and most accurate dancing, a romantic and forceful characterization, and some desperate, dashing swordplay; and the duo are flawless in pas de deux, both technically and emotionally.
Alternating as Mercutio, Miguel Garcia displays Latin humor and admirable spins. Charles Flachs makes an arrogant young twit of Tybalt, and Patricia Vaughan, at first a cool Lady Capulet, unleashes a storm of grief at his death.
For Ballet West's Renaissance spectacle, an immortal love story told in the language of dance, crowds are building to capacity, with a sellout imminent.