California Ballet’s Romeo and Juliet

March 13, 2016

I got Groupon tickets again to go see a show by myself – this time, a ballet. California Ballet was performing the world premiere of Jared Nelson’s Ruled by Secrecy, followed by Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.

Balboa Theatre and Seats

The ballet was at Balboa Theatre in Gaslamp, adjacent to Horton Plaza. I parked in Horton Plaza’s parking garage, validated my ticket for 3 hours free parking on the 4th floor machine, and headed toward the mall’s movie theatre and Panera Bread, down the stairs. Look for the big BALBOA sign with the lightbulbs and follow the trail of finely dressed folk for the entrance.

Balboa Theatre is smaller than the San Diego Civic Theatre, which is perfect for more intimate performances.

I chose the orchestra section and Groupon randomly assigned me a seat that was on my voucher, which I didn’t see until I got there. I ended up in the 2nd row on the left.

For theatrical performances, the best seating in the house isn’t actually closest to the stage, but about rows 6-12 depending on the theatre. I was hesitant to choose front orchestra seats because of reviews that said you can’t see the dancers’ feet, you might get sweat splashed on you, and their stage makeup looks scary from up close. But I have been in balcony seats before and wanted to experience a show from up closer.

I thought the seats were just fine – it was a more emotional show, so it was nice being able to see Romeo and Juliet’s facial expressions clearly. Their stage makeup wasn’t excessive at all, and I didn’t really miss their footwork from my seat.

Ruled by Secrecy

This opening act was “a modern take on love, the situations we find ourselves in, and finding our way back to what love truly stands for.” Pretty sure the soundtrack was from Muse, which makes more sense now that I have just googled the name and realized “Ruled by Secrecy” is the name of a Muse song…

Overall, I thought the show was an amazing production of contemporary ballet. Some of the timing was off, noticeable when there were 3+ people that were supposed to be synchronized. But this was more than redeemed by the choreography and execution of more difficult moves (and understandable because this was their first time performing the piece).

There was only one act from this piece that I didn’t like – a seemingly cliche dynamic of one man dancing with several women, moving on from one to the other and the changing emotions of the women he leaves behind.

There was a lot of interdependency and weight sharing, which required a lot of coordination and practice. One move that stood out to me: the woman ran toward the man and hopped to wrap her legs around his waist. But at the last moment, she turned so her back was away from him, and she wrapped her legs behind her and then they spun around in a circle. It’s hard to explain, but it caused me to widen my eyes and I’ll just say, I would not want to try that at home (at least, not without some padded ground beneath me).

Romeo and Juliet

The introduction to the show talked about the history of the California Ballet, their special relationship to Balboa Theatre, and how they wanted to do a smaller production of Romeo and Juliet without such a big budget (because it was one of their first, I believe).

There is no dialogue in the ballet, so dancers must rely on expressions and non-verbal communication. The colors of their outfits also helped distinguish the families (the parents of one family wore red/purple, and the other yellow/brown). However, my only gripe was that the maids of both families wore yellow and orange, so it was harder to tell them apart – maybe it was intentional.

Because it is such a well-known storyline, the dialogue wasn’t necessary and it was nice to see the story in ballet form. I think I would prefer this version over a regular play production of “Romeo and Juliet,” just because it’s so “played” out.

There were a lot of “aww’s” and “haha’s” throughout. I was impressed by both pieces of the night, and would highly recommend seeing these and other ballet shows.

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UC San Diego grad with a double major in Economics and International Business. I was born and raised in sunny San Diego, but I love to travel (and eat) around the world.

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