The final "Romeo and Juliet" of the current American Ballet Theatre season in Shrine Auditorium offered two major new satisfactions and one big surprise.
In this Sunday evening cast, Ron Tice made Tybalt dangerously corrosive--for once, no pushover in the sword duels--and Patrick Bissell gave Romeo an expansive optimism that only shattered into desperate confusion and anguish in the last moment before suicide.
Finely danced and compelling for their individuality, these performances strongly emphasized the theme of corruption versus innocence at work in the ballet--a theme more fully explored in Susan Jaffe's startling portrayal of Juliet.
Already a knowing, willful tease in her opening encounter with Paris, this Juliet only rediscovered her innocence through her relationship with Romeo. Jaffe masterfully traced a line of development from the hungry sensuality of the balcony scene through the helpless hysteria of the bedroom duet--and beyond into the deep, childlike vulnerability of the tomb scene.
Of course, the gorgeous technique that marked Jaffe's 1985 Juliet could still be savored--especially her exquisite port de bras and extraordinary purity of line. Of course, the partnership with Bissell (who didn't dance Romeo here last year) yielded a full quota of rapturous or yearning lifts.
But, this time, Jaffe's Juliet proved far more than a display of very special effects. This time it had a consistent (if unorthodox) concept carried through with remarkable intelligence and power.