Romeo was drenched in sweat, but Juliet didn't seem to mind as she clung to him. In fact, she'd gotten a bit dewy herself going through love's demanding paces. Within little more than an hour, the couple had circled each other at a ball, shared intimacies under a balcony, and flitted about, avid and anxious to embrace in the uncertain aftermath of bedroom bliss.
All in a day's rehearsal at Miami City Ballet for Emily Bromberg and Jovani Furlan, first-timers as leads in John Cranko's Romeo and Juliet, which opens the performance season for their company.
South African-born Cranko was artistic director of Stuttgart Ballet in 1962 when he choreographed this full-length work to Serge Prokofiev's robust score. It has remained the choreographer's most popular ballet since his death in 1973.
"I tell myself this role is too good to be true. I feel such a great responsibility," says Furlan, a corps de ballet member along with Bromberg and only a student apprentice, fresh from Brazil, when MCB originally staged this work three years ago. Both dancers have benefited from MCB artistic director Lourdes Lopez's invigorating effort to bring newer talents to the forefront. "Luckily," Furlan recognizes, "dancing with Emily has come very naturally."
Bromberg says their work in the studio flows into off-time as they keep texting each other about pending technical details or new observations gleaned from production videos. Being so attuned results in dancing the ballerina describes as symbiotic, with moves establishing dialogue.
"In the bedroom scene," she explains, "it's as if our bodies are making words come out -- he says, 'I have to leave,' and I plead, 'Don't!' When we first used the bed in rehearsal, there we were, whispering to each other about how those circumstances would feel while mourning a best friend. Exploration of psychology is tremendously important."
Furlan concurs that nailing characterizations is as crucial as finessing the steps. "My big jumps need to show how much I adore Juliet. I have to be right in my movement so I can dig into the mood. I'm very romantic, but I still wonder what it would be like to lose a love like that. What I get from Romeo is how he tries to go over obstacles."
Bromberg had experience at a different ballet company shouldering the female lead in Don Quixote, also a full-length work, but that light-hearted classic contrasts greatly with her current role's tragic dimension. "Because I haven't done this before, the dancing becomes a kind of discovery," says Bromberg. "I can transfer that energy into Juliet as she goes through testing circumstances."
In the process, she's grateful to count on the support of Jennifer Kronenberg and Patricia Delgado, the seasoned ballerinas who'll be alternating as Juliet. "I've gone to them every time I've had some doubts and needed pointers. They've been very helpful reassuring me if something feels awkward. That's done wonders for my confidence."
Although Kronenberg's portrayal of Juliet remains memorable from MCB's first go at this ballet, the principal ballerina admits, "There are technical difficulties that don't go away."
Her husband, Carlos Guerra, who will once again dance Romeo opposite her, concedes to the advantages of a deeper familiarity with Prokofiev's music and the sweep of the drama. Yet, a stickler for the synchronicity the choreography demands, this experienced dancer still underscores its challenges, saying, "Cranko's pas de deux are very intricate, especially in lifts and counterbalances."
This time around, however, Kronenberg and Guerra can draw from an enriching maturity as artists and human beings. "At first I was worried because I'm further from Juliet, a teenage girl," Kronenberg says. "But it's turned out to be an advantage. Now as a relatively new mother I can look at Juliet and understand her character more clearly. When I do the temper tantrum scene, I can't help thinking of my daughter Eva!"
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Miami City Ballet's season premieres with Romeo and Juliet on Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Arsht Center. Tickets run from $20 to $107. Visit miamicityballet.org.
-- Guillermo Perez, artburstmiami.com