Romeo & Juliet: Story
Dear Cincinnati Ballet Lovers,
And I do mean LOVERS!
Welcome to this special place, the Aronoff Center for the Arts, where, when the lights dim, the orchestra tunes and the curtain rises, you will be swept into Prokofiev’s lush and romantic, yet foreboding score. I have no doubt you will find yourself witnessing (and with any luck reliving) that first ever blush of intrigue and inexplicable chemistry for someone who without your permission captured your heart. For our young Romeo and Juliet, it is an infatuation beyond comprehension or control. It reminds us of what is both poignant and tragic about any first love - there is only ever one.
When I first began working on Romeo & Juliet, now over ten years ago, I remember feeling overwhelmed. How could this story, told only through the language of movement, possibly capture Shakespeare’s complex and intricate world of words? His wordplay makes masterful use of wit, double entendre and symbolism while weaving an intriguing web of ideologies and relationships. But what I’ve come to realize through the years of refining this work is that movement, infused and motivated by great music, has the incredible capacity to express life’s most basic and intense human emotions in a way that, for me, reaches beyond words. It is at that raw and visceral level that the essence of Shakespeare’s greatest love story, can, through movement, be profoundly told.
In revisiting this production, I gave myself the great pleasure of re-choreographing all the major pas de deux between Romeo and Juliet. What I discover in that process never ceases to amaze me. The long-time relationship between Janessa Touchet and Cervilio Amador, both principal dancers with Cincinnati Ballet for the past decade, guided and inspired the energy in the studio in such a unique capacity that allowed for a freer and more emotional abandonment in the partnering adventure. There were days when their invention and willingness to personalize the work would defy expectation and floored me to the core. The story of young love told by these dancers, also so young and at the height of their physical artistry, could not be more convincing.
My hope is that when you watch these young lovers discovering their first rush of passionate obsession, you will recall your own experience. If it was only yesterday or several decades ago, I hope this sensation finds a way to swell in your heart and enliven your life today.
Your ever-in-love AD and CEO,
“Two households, both alike in dignity,
In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.
From forth the fatal loins of these two foes
A pair of star-cross'd lovers take their life…”
The Market Square - At dawn in the streets of fair Verona, Romeo, the son of Lord and Lady Montague, is following the aloof beauty Rosaline hoping she will cast a favorable eye on him. Vendors fill the square and those faithful to the House of Capulet begin to tease and taunt those faithful to the House of Montague which turns into an all-out brawl. The Prince of Verona is forced to intervene, ordering an end to the fighting.
Juliet’s Bedroom - Juliet, the teenage daughter of Lord and Lady Capulet is playing with her nurse. In the midst of Juliet’s game, Lord and Lady Capulet enter to introduce her to her first suitor, the Count Paris.
In front of the House of Capulet - As guests are arriving to the Capulet Ball, Mercutio and Benvolio, Romeo’s friends, try to distract the love-lorn Romeo from thoughts of Rosaline by coaxing him into crashing the Capulet party incognito. Donning masks and capes they enter the Capulet house unrecognized.
The Capulet Ball - The elegant lords and ladies of Verona are enjoying the festivities. Juliet enters to greet her parents and is put on the arm of Paris. Romeo sees her and is smitten trying recklessly to get her attention. Juliet responds and in the passion of the moment, removes Romeo’s mask. Tybalt recognizes Romeo without his mask as a Montague. He is about to intercept him when Mercutio creates a distraction that buys Romeo a bit more time with Juliet.
The Balcony Scene – After the Ball, Romeo makes his way to the orchard beneath Juliet’s room. Juliet has come out to her balcony to languor in the moonlight. Romeo gets her attention and invites her down to dance. As the night comes to a close, they proclaim their love for one another, reluctantly bidding goodnight.
The Market Square - The day after the Capulet Ball the square is alive. Romeo is greeted by Mercutio and Benvolio. Juliet’s Nurse arrives with a message for Romeo asking him to meet Juliet at Friar Laurence’s cell.
Friar Laurence’s Cell - Romeo and Juliet arrive at the Friar’s cell and are united in a secret marriage.
The Market Square - Tybalt enters the square looking for Romeo to exact revenge for disrupting the Ball. Romeo refuses to fight, unable to tell Tybalt that they are now in fact cousins by marriage. Tybalt insults Romeo’s cowardice and Mercutio steps in to defend his friend’s honor. They fight and as Romeo tries to stop them, Tybalt fatally wounds Mercutio. Romeo avenges his friend’s death in a vicious fight resulting in Tybalt’s death.
Juliet’s Bedroom – Juliet, while waiting for Romeo, learns that he has killed her cousin and has been sentenced to death. Romeo enters Juliet’s room, his anguish matching hers. Romeo must leave Verona but spends a few final hours with his beloved. They are interrupted by the Nurse who warns Juliet that her parents are coming to present Paris to Juliet as her fiancé. She begs her father not to rush her but he is forcefully adamant.
Friar Laurence’s Cell – In complete desperation, Juliet rushes into the Friar’s sanctuary. The friar gives Juliet a potion that will induce a sleep so deep that she will appear to be dead. The Friar then promises to send a message to Romeo explaining the plan so that eventually Romeo and Juliet can flee Verona together.
Juliet’s Bedroom - Lord and Lady Capulet return with Paris and Juliet accepts the marriage to Paris. She bids her family goodnight and drawing strength from Romeo’s love, she drinks the potion.
Morning Serenade – The next morning, several girls sent by Paris to serenade Juliet on her wedding day try to wake her but Juliet doesn’t respond. The Nurse comes to the bedside and pulls back the covers only to find Juliet cold and lifeless.
Juliet’s Funeral – Juliet’s body is laid out for burial in the family crypt. As the family pays their last respects, the Friar’s messenger returns having failed to deliver his message to Romeo. Believing that Juliet is dead, Romeo has returned to Verona to die beside her. Disguised as a monk, Romeo enters the crypt to discover Paris who has lingered behind the others. In a struggle between them, Paris is mortally wounded. Romeo cradles his wife’s lifeless body in his arms. Bereft with despair, he drinks a lethal poison. As he draws his last breath, Juliet stirs. She sees Romeo and tries to wake him only to discover the empty vial of poison. With Romeo’s dagger, Juliet takes her own life, joining her lover in death.