Misty Copeland and Joseph Gorak in Romeo and Juliet Photo Rosalie O'Connor

Misty Copeland and Joseph Gorak in Romeo and Juliet
Photo Rosalie O’Connor

American Ballet Theatre: Romeo and Juliet
Metropolitan Opera House, New York, NY
June 20, 2015

Colleen Boresta

The June 20th matinee of American Ballet Theatre’s Romeo and Juliet was standing room only because that afternoon’s Juliet was ABT soloist Misty Copeland. Some people had come a long way. The lady sitting next to me had travelled all the way from San Francisco to see Copeland perform in Romeo and Juliet and Swan Lake (she dances the dual role of Odette/Odile at the June 24th matinee).

And Copeland’s fame extends far beyond the dance world. She’s performed on commercials and with rock legend Prince, has penned a best-selling memoir and has been the subject of a 60 Minutes profile. There are very few dancers of color in ballet. And Copeland has become an inspiration, especially to African American girls.

While Romeo and Juliet is a work that took me a long time to appreciate, I now love this ballet. This Sir Kenneth MacMillan version is that I have seen most often. It has the power to touch my soul, especially when the title characters are star-crossed lovers I can believe in.

This was certainly the case with Misty Copeland and Joseph Gorak – they were natural, unaffected young lovers. Copeland became Juliet through her realistic innocence and it was hard to believe that this was only her second time dancing the role. Her expressive face showed Juliet’s every emotion – from joy to love to fear to sorrow. And her body delineated Juliet’s journey from a fourteen year old child to a young wife whose love for her husband was all encompassing.

As Romeo, Gorak reminded me of a young David Hallberg, sweet and genuine with a perfect line. Gorak’s soaring leaps and plush landings stood out as did his fiery multiple air turns during the balcony pas de deux. As well as Copeland and Gorak danced separately, it was amazing how complete they were together. During both the balcony and bedroom pas de deux, they moved as one, with tangible chemistry. Theirs is definitely a partnership in the making.

Arron Scott was a remarkable Mercutio in both dancing and acting. A dizzyingly fast turner and incredibly high jumper, I wonder why Scott has not yet been promoted to soloist rank. With a goal to rid Verona of the Montagues and all their supporters, Roman Zhurbin was a powerfully evil Tybalt. After he has killed Mercutio, Zhurbin’s Tyblat showed no remorse and immediately attacked Romeo, his last act before dying was to reach for his sword. Grant DeLong portrayed Lord Capulet as spineless and ineffective, in contrast to Devon Teuscher who was an imperiously arrogant Lady Capulet, showing a mother’s sorrow when her nephew, Tybalt, was killed by Romeo.

ABT has been performing MacMillan’s Romeo and Juliet for thirty years; I hope they will continue to dance it for at least thirty more. I also hope that both Misty Copeland and Joseph Gorak will soon see promotions.