OBT 25, the production celebrating Oregon Ballet Theatre’s 25th anniversary, included a section titled “Love X3”. This portion of the program featured works by Trey McIntyre and Christopher Stowell and was rounded-out with the passionate bedroom pas de deux from Romeo and Juliet as choreographed by OBT’s Founding Artistic Director, James Canfield. Mr. Canfield is currently the Artistic Director for Nevada Ballet Theatre, and was previously a dancer with Washington Ballet and a principal at Joffrey Ballet. He was Artistic Director of Pacific Ballet Theatre here in Portland in 1986, before taking the helm at OBT from its inception in 1989. Under Mr. Canfield’s direction, OBT developed a unique repertoire that grew to include over 80 ballets. This production marks the first time his work will be performed by OBT since 2003 and we look forward to its return.

Tracey & James as Romeo & Juliet.
Tracey Sartorio and James Canfield in his 1989 “Romeo & Juliet”.

Before he choreographed Romeo and Juliet, Mr. Canfield danced the title role in John Cranko’s version with Joffrey Ballet to rave reviews. The New York Times critic Anna Kisselgoff , described Mr. Canfield’s Romeo as “magnificently danced at every moment” and “the production’s most persuasive character. He gives us a Romeo all too ready for love.” Tracey Sartorio, who danced Juliet to his Romeo in OBT’s original production says with certainty, “He had it in his DNA.” This production of Shakespeare’s tragedy about two young star-crossed lovers featured Mr. Canfield dancing the title role. As a choreographic master of the pas de deux, the romance of the story lent itself to his talents. With his long arm span and his experience in the role, Ms. Sartorio said that he would sweep Juliet off her feet and that all that was left was for her to lose herself to the story. And so many of us have lost ourselves in the story of Romeo, son of Montague, and the young Juliet, daughter of Capulet. The story is familiar: The girl attends a ball where she meets young Romeo. The two fall in love despite their families’ age-old feud, vowing their love for one another and agreeing to be married during the famous balcony scene. Shortly after, Romeo is exiled as punishment for killing a Capulet during a street fight, but before he leaves, he and Juliet consummate their marriage. It is the following morning that sets the scene for the bedroom pas de deux performed in OBT 25. This scene was chosen instead of the famous balcony scene because it is more rich with nuance. Romeo and Juliet’s characters are now experienced and more mature. No longer the naïve young lovers they were at the beginning of the story, both have experienced sadness, fear, longing and love.   The poignancy of the scene shows the two not wanting to part. It is to be their final farewell.

Ansa Deguchi and Brian Simcoe in James Canfield's
Ansa Deguchi and Brian Simcoe in James Canfield’s “Romeo & Juliet”. Photo by Blaine Truitt Covert.

The doomed lovers attempt to rejoin one another, but fate will not have it. Their rendezvous is not to be, and in the end both Romeo and Juliet kill themselves over their lost love. While the story is set in Renaissance Italy, the issues and emotions are timeless and Mr. Canfield insisted on the characters being portrayed as real people. To that end, he coached each of his Juliets to play their part in a character true to their own personality. Ms. Sartorio played the role as “a spicy Italian, more fiery.” Ansa Deguchi and Brian Simcoe poured themselves into their roles when they took the stage as Romeo and Juliet during OBT 25. We’d love to hear you describe their interpretations of these classic roles! -Brook Manning

Brook Photo by Francie Manning.
Dance Historian and Teaching Artist Brook Manning. Photo by Francie Manning.

One thought on “Looking Deeper – Romeo and Juliet

  1. Brook, thank you for your high quality work! I learn so much from you and I appreciate all the efforts you put into your blogs. Exceptional job!

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