Romeo and Juliet with a Happy Ending

I first heard Sergey Prokofiev’s music for the ballet Romeo and Juliet when I was about five. My dad played the record and asked me to imagine what it would be like to dance to. I imagined and, once again, scooched chairs around the living room to 5-year-old-heart-on-sleeve-style-dance.

Later that week, I put on my favorite dress and accompanied my dad to American Ballet Theater’s Romeo and Juliet at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in L.A. I remember the sweet, mysterious smell of the theater and a jar of candy that a stagehand let me dip into. The sound of the orchestra tuning up was unbearably exciting, topped only by the tapping of toe shoes getting into place before the curtain opened.

Apparently, I danced in the aisle at intermission (I don’t remember). And then I danced at the Jewish Community Center and at countless other studios (I remember) until ending up a choreographer in New York.

I didn’t dance in the aisles at Mark Morris’s Romeo & Juliet, On Motifs of Shakespeare at Bard’s Summerscape the other night. But the music (Prokofiev’s original score, recently unearthed by musicologist Simon Morrison) resonated in my bones. And I couldn’t help but bounce around in my seat.

The newly re-discovered music, and newly created dance, includes a happy ending. Romeo does not take his own life. The friar enters just in time. Juliet wakes up. The families are so happy they get along. The two star-crossed lovers dance a love dance within a twinkling star-filled set.

I’m not sure how I feel about a happy ending. Or about any Romeo and Juliet dance that is different (or, in this case, maybe not different enough) from the one burned into my memory 26 years ago.

But at the same time, the piece reminded me of the power and pleasure of storytelling. Romeo and Juliet (with or without the happy ending) is juicy. It hits on the biggies: family, death, love. And Morris does a sweet job catching the tenderness of young, first love. (There is a beautiful, self-conscious and sexy morning-after scene with a nearly naked Romeo and Juliet on a bed with one large red silk sheet….)

Towards the end of the piece, I liked being swept away by the romance. The gentleness and eagerness in the two lovers reminded me of my first loves. I went back to five-year old dance class. Scarf in hand, we ran around the room to delicious music. And then, years later, there was the other kind of love. Somewhat shyer and more complicated. But also delicious.

No comments:

Post a Comment