American Ballet Theatre
Romeo and Juliet
New York, Metropolitan Opera House
18 June 2015
In Fair Verona
Another night, another Juliet takes the stage at American Ballet Theatre. The spring season at the Met is like that: each week brings a new evening-length work, with a different cast of principals featured at practically every performance. Tonight it was Evgenia Obraztsova’s turn, alongside the Argentina-born company principal Herman Cornejo. After ten years at the Mariinsky, the diminutive Obraztsova is now a principal at the Bolshoi. This was her first guest appearance with ABT; before today, her performances in New York had been limited to a brief Mariinsky tour in 2011 and a few galas. Even then, sandwiched between a Black Swan pas de deux and an excerpt from Don Q, one couldn’t help but notice her charm and the sparkle and lightness of her pointework.
Physically and temperamentally she is well-matched with Cornejo, though on pointe she is just a tiny bit taller. Like him, she is a disarming performer, unaffected and unfussy in her technique, which is nevertheless prodigious. It’s particularly impressive to see how she phrases movement, using gravity and the pliancy of her frame to scoop through the air with apparent ease. A certain fearlessness works to her advantage.
Obraztsova’s Juliet is childlike, almost pre-pubescent; at the start, skittishness and obedience are the predominant colors. Gradually, as she begins to grasp the seriousness of her situation, she becomes increasingly grave, without ever quite losing this girlish purity. She fights to the end, even in the arms of the Capulets’ chosen suitor, Paris, in a pas de deux that has the callousness of a rape. Her tiny, backward-traveling bourrées come across as an attempt to escape to the more innocent world of her childhood.
With every passing season, Cornejo’s performances become warmer, more ardent; there is now an echo of Julio Bocca’s fervor in his dancing. Once admired for his jumps and beats, he’s now a presence onstage; he dances with his whole body, his eyes, his fingertips. His renversés in the balcony scene became a swirl of movement, three-dimensional and lush. His musicality caught accents and syncopations in Prokofiev’s layered score. He was happily engaged with everyone onstage, particularly the most spirited of the three wild-haired harlots in the street scenes, Isadora Loyola. Cornejo has undeniable panache.
On this night, he was given a run for his money by his two partners-in-crime, Mercutio and Benvolio. The first was danced with pyrotechnical flash by Daniil Simkin; Joseph Gorak displayed his usual purity of line as the second. Gorak’s feet, as pliant as a paint brush, could make a ballerina cry.
One could imagine a fine partnership developing between Cornejo and Obraztsova. Both are generous and open-hearted performers. Let’s hope she’ll come be back soon.