Pacific Northwest Ballet Continues its Season with the Return of Jean-Christophe Maillot’s Roméo et Juliette

Pacific Northwest Ballet Continues its Season with the Return of Jean-Christophe Maillot’s Roméo et Juliette

Jean-Christophe Maillot’s masterful Roméo et Juliette was premiered in 1996 by Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo, where Maillot was resident choreographer and artistic director. His contemporary interpretation has been hailed throughout the world as “one of the most beautiful ballets adapted from Shakespeare’s masterpiece” (Scènes Magazine), and instantly became an audience favorite and a signature work in Pacific Northwest Ballet’s repertory when the company presented its west coast premiere in 2008. Now this unforgettable romantic tragedy returns to the stage as PNB continues its 49th season.

“A tour-de-force requiring not only high-quality dancing but committed acting in this symbolic, abstract version of the Shakespearean love story. Maillot’s choreography is exciting and energizing, a feast of styles densely packed together, and the PNB dancers revel in it,” raves Tacoma News Tribune.

From West Side Story to Twilight, Shakespeare’s great romance seems always to find new interpretation, and its tale of forbidden love has been especially enticing to the dance world. Peter Boal was so mesmerized by Jean-Christophe Maillot’s Roméo et Juliette when he attended its New York debut in 1999, that it became his first full-length acquisition for PNB as artistic director.

Though Maillot’s Roméo et Juliette is firmly grounded in classical ballet, his choreography is imbued with natural and intuitive movement that feels progressive and expands margins of expression. As the famous story of star-crossed lovers unfolds, the dancers’ swimming hands, flying arms, and off-kilter balances speak for racing hearts, reckless impulses, and inner turmoil. Stage action is brought into high relief by the ballet’s spare and elegant design. Great washes of blue and gold light reflect the magnitude of Prokofiev’s dramatic score, and the piercing elation and lament of young love project like Hollywood close-ups.

Sergei Prokofiev’s glorious ballet score is frequently called his masterpiece. Its thematic melodies provide counterpoint and impart eloquent support to the narrative. In his version of Roméo et Juliette, choreographer Jean-Christophe Maillot has taken formal inspiration from the episodic character of Prokofiev’s classic score, structuring the action in a manner akin to cinematic narrative. Rather than focusing on themes of political-social opposition between the two feuding clans, this Romeo and Juliet highlights the dualities and ambiguities of adolescence. Torn between contradictory impulses, between tenderness and violence, fear and pride, the lovers are caught in the throes of a tragedy that exemplifies their youth and the extreme emotions and internal conflicts that characterize that time of life. In evoking this fragile and volatile state of being, scenic designer Ernest Pignon-Ernest has created a decor marked by transparency and lightness: a play of simple forms that reveals an underlying complexity of meaning.

Roméo et Juliette runs for nine performances, February 4 through 13. Tickets start at just $30. Roméo et Juliette will also stream digitally from February 24 through 28, for friends and lovers to watch from the comfort of home. Tickets for the digital access are $35. For tickets and additional information about Pacific Northwest’s Roméo et Juliette, contact the PNB Box Office at 206.441.2424 or online 24/7 at

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