The Nashville Ballet's 2019-20 Season opens with three performances of Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet, directed and choreographed by Nashville Ballet Artistic Director Paul Vasterling. The enormous stage of TPAC's Jackson Hall is filled with a beautiful company that can bring laser-like focus to intimate moments between Juliet and her Romeo and utilize the corps de ballet in filling the space beautifully in larger scenes.
The story, of course, doesn't generally require the viewer to read the synopsis before the ballet begins, but, in fair Verona, where we lay our scene, Shakespeare's timeless words are muted in favor of Prokofiev's lush score. Under the baton of Ming Luke, the depth of their sound fills the hall with the dramatic scoring of the "Dance of the Knights" segment and yet isn't lost when required to quietly allow the dancers' emotions to take the lead.
Dancing the role of Juliet at the performance I attended, Kayla Rowser's Juliet was built upon lithe movement and responsive chemistry that proved to be the perfect pairing for Nicolas Scheuer's Romeo. (The Friday and Sunday performances will be danced by Mollie Sansone and Brett Sjoblom.) Rowser's frenzy in panicked moments were balanced by passion and calm in the pas de deux balcony scene closing Act I. Scheuer's work in showing Romeo's violence in the fight choreography and tenderness in moments with Rowser made for an ideal pairing.
For ballet novices, Romeo and Juliet is an excellent way to begin your journey into dance. Take it from me that there's something about already knowing how the tale unfolds without having to memorize the synopsis. A familiar story paired with a ravishingly beautiful score, an evocative production, and engaging choreography make for a smashing start to the Nashville Ballet's season.
Romeo and Juliet will be performed Friday and Saturday nights at 7:30 p.m. and at a 2 p.m. Sunday matinee. Tickets are available at tpac.org and at the TPAC box office.
Author's Note: There's an assumption of virtue in admitting one's weakness. My association with the arts and the appreciation thereof slams on the brakes when I approach ballet. It's not that I don't find beauty in dance. Quite the opposite. It's more that I don't know how to properly quantify and describe the athleticism and beauty of the human body's movement without sounding forced and ridiculous. With that understood, please forgive me.