Preview: Nevada Ballet Theatre ends its season with ‘Romeo and Juliet’

Beautiful tragedy: Mary Lacroix and Grigori Arakelyan rehearse for NBT’s Romeo and Juliet.


Romeo and Juliet
May 11, 7:30 p.m.; May 12, 1 p.m.; $28-$128
The Smith Center's Reynolds Hall, 749-2000

It should probably come as no surprise that Nevada Ballet Theatre artistic director James Canfield sliced the “excess” from his own version of Romeo and Juliet to get right to the meat of the Shakespearian tragedy. Why dawdle with village and street scenes when there’s so much drama to beguile you? Between the warring families, sword duels, love, death and a most disastrous misunderstanding, it’s a brilliant heartbreak, and Canfield says he’d rather get right to the story.

'Romeo and Juliet' Rehearsal

Part of it is Canfield’s serious nature when it comes to art and all of its depths. The other is logistics. The ballet was originally created with three acts for the much larger Oregon Ballet Theatre when it premiered in 1989, and then it pared down to two acts for smaller-cast performances. Additionally, Canfield’s emphasis here extends to the acting required of the dancers and to developing the characters beyond the two lovers: “They all can be and cannot be important,” he says. “In my version, they’re all important.”

But even more significant, maybe, is that Nevada Ballet Theatre will present Romeo and Juliet (set to Prokofiev) at all. Aside from multiple performances of The Nutcracker during the holiday season, this is the company’s first story ballet since Giselle was presented in 2008, when Canfield was NBT’s interim director. (That performance was outstanding, incidentally).

Known for his contemporary leanings in choreography and performances, Canfield has yet to place a full-length, traditional story ballet on his program. But it’s not for lack of personal interest, he says. Having had a mostly new company since taking over—one that was also downsized in response to the recession—he mainly wanted to ensure that the company itself was prepared.

“I don’t do a story ballet for the sake of doing a story ballet,” he says. “If you really want to test the depth of your company, then you have to do a dramatic ballet because that’s where the artistry is born.”

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