Romeo and JULIET

Photo by Nigel Norrington
Evgenia Obraztsova was only 19 when she performed her first Romeo and Juliet at the Mariinsky. She was an instant sensation. It's not hard to see why. She looks like the Juliet of your dreams -- the huge saucer eyes, the radiant smile, the flowing Renaissance locks. For several years she seemed to be on a path to becoming a Mariinsky prima ballerina -- she was given roles in reconstructions of Ondine, The Awakening of Flora, and Shurale. I saw her in Little Humpbacked Horse and Symphony in C when the Mariinsky toured the U.S. about four years ago. She was adorable.

But then ... the roles stopped. Why this happened, no one knows. In 2013 she finally left the Mariinsky for good and became principal at the Bolshoi Ballet. The Bolshoi Ballet doesn't currently have a Romeo and Juliet in its repertoire so chances to see Obraztsova in her signature role are big events indeed.

Obraztsova almost singlehandedly lifted this tired, gazillionth revival of Romeo and Juliet into something special. Technically, she's stunning. Her backwards pas de bourreés were so fast and silky smooth, she made this routine move into a "wow" moment. It was like she was a pebble skimming water. Her arabesque is also beautiful -- she's a tiny, petite dancer but she's able to project into the audience not only with her face but with the stretch of her legs. I'm reminded of Alexandra Danilova reminding her students that in arabesque, the audience must see the movement upwards. Obraztsova always showed you the arc of the shape she was creating. Her jump has the bounce and spring of a young, coltish teenager. I could go on and on about her gorgeous feet, her pliant back, her rippling arms, and what not, but let's just call it a great performance.

Obraztsova's characterization of Juliet is definitely in the "lady-like" Ulanova/Fonteyn/Bessmertnova tradition (as opposed to the more veristic, passionate Seymour/Ferri/Vishneva/Osipova strain). But she's not for a moment disengaged. In fact, her Juliet has some interesting touches that I had never seen done before. In the Tomb Scene many Juliets will pick up the dagger, stare at it, contemplate, and then stab. Obraztsova runs around the tomb, stumbles over the dagger, and quickly stabs herself. It's a reminder that Juliet is still an impulsive teeenager.  Obraztsova is also one of the few Juliets I've seen in recent memory to follow the stage directions and sit absolutely still on her bed as she's contemplating her fate. So many Juliets feel the urge to devise a little mad scene. Not Obraztsova -- she let the music do the acting for her. Obraztsova unlike many Juliets doesn't overtly fight against Paris when her parents announce their engagement. Instead, she ducks and skims away with her pas de bourreés, with such speed that all of a sudden she looks like an unattainable sylph.

Photo by Kent G. Becker

Obraztsova's Romeo was Herman Cornejo. Cornejo's been plagued by injuries over the years and there are sometimes signs of it -- his jumps are still powerful, but he's lost flexibility in his legs and back. One notices that he can no longer really stretch during his arabesques, and that his split leaps don't have much of a split anymore. His overhead lifts are impressive for a guy his size but again, he's been better. There wasn't that much chemistry between him and Obraztsova and they are obviously dancers from very different schools and training, but both are musical and conscientious enough as dancers to make MacMillan's somewhat overwrought choreography work.

Daniil Simkin (Mercutio) and Joseph Gorak (Benvolio) completed the trio of Montague males. They are all short and slight, and looked very harmonious standing as a threesome. But they're all actually very different dancers. Simkin's Mercutio was full of bravura tricks. His solos were full of interpolated moves calculated to generate applause. His death scene reminded me of Sylvia Plath's line "Dying is an art, like everything else, I do it exceptionally well." Wow he milked that death for all it was worth. Gorak is all about elegant lines. I look forward to seeing his Romeo eventually. In fact, I commented to a friend that Gorak's Romeo might look great with Obraztsova's Juliet.

The revival was otherwise a tired affair. The orchestra was slow, ponderous and horribly out of tune. The corps, so drilled and together during the Ratmansky Sleeping Beauty, looked tired and out of it tonight. In the Act One sword fighting scene many of them did not even bother looking at the person they were supposedly fighting, they just absentmindedly flicked their wrists and made some motions with their plastic swords. One of Juliet's friends took a tumble. Devon Teuscher (Lady Capulet) thankfully did not make Mercutio's death scene an over the top flailing extravaganza.

But really, the night belonged to Obraztsova, who had throng of admirers waiting for her at the stage door and was practically mobbed when she exited. She's even more beautiful in person. ABT often relies on guest artists to fill gaps in scheduling that quite often comes across as lazy -- it's as if they simply have neither the time nor the care to coach one of their own dancers in a role. Nevertheless Obraztsova is the kind of guest artist worth having -- she's been in NY rehearsing for over two weeks, and she was a star, but did not dance like this was a star turn. I hope she returns soon.


  1. I so enjoyed reading this. I had not caught on that she left the Mariinsky for the Bolshoi - wow! I just loved getting to know her in the documentary, Ballerina.

    So glad to have found this blog! I found the link on Ballet Alert's thread of dance bloggers. Nice to "meet" you!

  2. Isaw my very favorite ballerina of all time on Thursday June 18th,2015 and I cann ot belive I finally got to see Evgenia Obraztsova in person in New York. I thought she was just wonderful! "I only just wish I coiuld see her again here in New York again soon. She was fabulous!

  3. I wonderif Evgenia Obraztsova will ever come back to New York again domeday soon. I saw her in Romeo and Juliet at the Met last JUne 18,2015 qnd I thought she was just wonderful.

  4. I don't understand why every company in the world isn't clamoring to have Evgenia guest. I find a lot of ABT's repertoire and casting dull, frankly, and seeing her in their R&J last year was a rare treat. She can do much more than R&J - I would love to see her dance McMillan!

  5. sorry, meant to say other McMillan pieces....


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