What better way to celebrate love during this month of the year than with William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, his sonnets, coupled with the Symposium, linked dances based on discussions of the various elements of love? Robert Weiss’ Carolina Ballet did all that and much more with their current triumph, Love Speaks, choreographed by guest Tony®-nominated choreographer, Lynne Taylor-Corbett. Running through Feb. 21st, this stunning performance makes for the perfect romantic date; and it’s also a compelling reason to enjoy ballet. Quite simply, Love Speaks is the ballet of the season!
Beginning with what some might recognize as the theme music for the movie Platoon (Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings), the opening ballet is a gorgeously danced piece that features principal dancer Marcelo Martinez, dressed in gray against a completely black screen, as a tortured lover who dances to and for and with Lilyan Vigo Ellis, also a principal dancer. Vigo is at her very best as the only feminine presence in this ballet. She dances — half-wraith, half-human woman — with an intensity and grace, and an impeccable elongation in her lifts deepens the passion of the dance.
The ballet encompasses Robert Weiss’ vision of the “narrative thread” to the story, a thread he can’t put into words, thus he choreographed the dance. The thread in this piece is that fragile one that exists when two people are so connected with each other that they almost appear to be as one. Several times in the dance, Martinez and Vigo supported each other, creating arcs and planes that made them appear to be a single person: two halves making one. They are incredibly beautiful to watch.
The second piece of the evening, the fairly standard balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet, is enlivened by the perfect pairing of principal dancers Margaret Severin-Hansen and Richard Krusch. The chemistry is good between these two principal dancers. In addition, Severin-Hansen’s Juliet is delicate and innocent, light and nervous, yet sure of herself and her love. Krusch not only dances a joyous solo, but also is a strong support for Severin-Hansen, conducting a number of well-executed lifts.
In a dramatic and funny interlude, actor of television and stage, Jeffery West, joins the ballet’s cast to become the narrator of Shakespeare’s sonnets. The short poems about the human experience are read with an attention to emotion rather than to iambic pentameter, which makes for an enjoyable experience. Each sonnet presents a different pas de deux. Some are flirty AND others passionately in love; each has a personality. The dances are fiery, humorous, playful, and uncertain. The ballet is charming and well-danced, and the audience responded enthusiastically.
After the second intermission, the Symposium begins. This ballet, danced to Leonard Bernstein’s Serenade, performs Plato’s dialogue. Each symposium celebrates a different aspect of love, and is opened by soloist Sokvannara Sar as a fiery, strong, and passionate Dionysos. When he’s on stage, he dominates.
The speeches to praise the god of love begin, and each dance embodies a speaker who discusses the duality of lover and beloved, as Phaedrus does (danced by 10 of the corps’ dancers), or tells a bedtime story about love, as does Aristophanes (danced to music that creates odd and triangular movements for the soloists, Yevgeny Shlapko and Alicia Fabry). Erixmathus speaks of bodily harmony, danced by the equally harmonious duo of principal Jan Burkhard and soloist Nikolai Smirnov.
This dance is followed by a painfully emotional and technically perfect dance that evokes heartbreak, the basis of a speech given by Agathon about the aspects of love’s powers and charms. Margaret Severin-Hansen and Richard Krusch partner once again in a darker performance than the one given earlier in the evening.
In the fifth speech, Sokvannara Sar dances as Socrates and Randi Osetek embodies the seer Diotma. She speaks on the demonology of love, and it is during this performance that the revelry usually associated with Dionysos breaks through.
The final dance is Sokvannara Sar as Alcibiades, and the ensemble joins him as the revelers. It is a fast and rhythmic ballet, well-danced and communicated.
The corps has never been better. The ballets ranged the emotional gamut, provided both light moments and dark, and were well-danced; and the theater was full, testament to the strength of Love Speaks. It’s the best ballet of the season and will run in limited performances until Feb. 21st in the A.J. Fletcher Opera Theater in Raleigh.
SECOND OPINION: Jan. 30th Raleigh, NC News & Observer preview by Roy C. Dicks: http://www.newsobserver.com/entertainment/arts-culture/article57259518.html.
The Carolina Ballet presents LOVE SPEAKS at 8 p.m. Feb. 6, 2 p.m. Feb. 7, 2 and 8 p.m. Feb. 13, 2 p.m. Feb. 14, 2 and 8 p.m. Feb. 20, and 2 p.m. Feb. 21 in the A.J. Fletcher Opera Theater in the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. South St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27601.
Carolina Ballet Box Office: at 919-719-0900 or https://www.carolinaballet.com/get-tickets.
Ticketmaster: 800-982-2787 or http://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/115203/836166.
GROUP RATES (10+ tickets): 919-719-0900 or https://www.carolinaballet.com/get-tickets/group-sales/.
SHOW: https://www.carolinaballet.com/program/love-speaks and http://www.dukeenergycenterraleigh.com/event/lovespeaks-5536.
VIDEO PREVIEW: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8JS-b4GHkkI&feature=youtu.be.
PRESENTER: http://www.carolinaballet.com/, https://www.facebook.com/CarolinaBallet, https://twitter.com/carolinaballet, and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carolina_Ballet.
Lynne Taylor-Corbett (Carolina Ballet principal guest choreographer): (official website), https://www.carolinaballet.com/pages/staff-directory-entry/lynne-taylor-corbett (Carolina Ballet bio), http://www.ibdb.com/Person/View/1480 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0853360/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lynne_Taylor-Corbett (Wikipedia).
Robert Weiss (Carolina Ballet artistic director and choreographer): http://www.carolinaballet.com/pages/staff-directory-entry/robert-weiss (Carolina Ballet bio) and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Weiss_%28choreographer%29 (Wikipedia).
Dawn Reno Langley is a Durham, NC-based author who writes novels, poetry, children’s books, and nonfiction books on many subjects, as well as theater, music, and dance reviews. She is also a writer, editor, writing coach at Reno’s Literary Services of Durham. To read all of Dawn Langley’s Triangle Review reviews online at Triangle Arts and Entertainment, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/dawn-reno-langle/. To read more of her writings, click http://dawnrenolangley.blogspot.com/ and http://poetryandgardening.blogspot.com/.