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St. Petersburg Ballet puts new twist on old story

Chrissy Rochel | Sunday, January 16, 2005

South Bend patrons of the arts had a rare chance to see one of the top ballet comapanies from across the world last Thursday.The St. Petersburg State Ballet Theater usually performs in Europe or Asia, but visited South Bend as part of a series of acts presented at the Morris Performing Arts Center thanks to scheduling from Notre Dame’s DeBartolo Center for the Performing Arts.St. Petersburg State Ballet Theater danced a modern version of the famous tragic love story. The show eliminated traditional features such as the classic balcony scene often used in ballet versions of “Romeo and Juliet.” This modern take on Shakespeare’s famous play personified death with a dancer in a black spandex bodysuit. This character acted as the sword-killing Mercutio and Tybalt in the two fight scenes. This dancer also gave Romeo the kiss of death at Juliet’s gravesite and presented Juliet with the sword that ended her life. As death danced the end to the sad story, Romeo and Juliet were lifted towards the ceiling on wooden boards. Meanwhile, the other dancers posed on stage with blue lights, which represented the stars of heaven. The staging as well as the characters and costumes presented a modern interpretation of the ballet. The performance began with a transparent curtain slightly obstructing the view of the audience. Wooden pillars lifted and descended upon the right and left sides of the stage during climactic scenes. Though this new presentation failed to leave the audience teary-eyed at the close, the audience rose to its feet to give an enthusiastic standing ovation and left the theater smiling. The performers danced the choreography of Serge Vikulov to the moving musical score of Sergei Prokofiev. When the band of Capulet men danced on stage in black and red attire, combatant like music highlighted the conflict between the houses of Montague and Capulet and passionately drew in the audience. Ballet connoisseurs deem St. Petersburg the birthplace of Russian Ballet. The 38-year old St. Petersburg State Ballet Theatre has received the highest official status by the Russian government. Only the best companies in Russia gain the prestigious title of “State and Academic Ballet.” This company has toured in over 50 countries with numerous sold-out audiences. DeBartolo Performing Arts Center executive director John Haynes said he was “particularly excited for the performance” and felt that “students as well as the entire South Bend community benefits from having such renowned artistic performances come to the area.” Haynes said that ND Presents will continue bringing award-winning performances to the Morris with the upcoming National Acrobats of Taiwan in March and the Opera Verdi Europa in April.