big screen ballet

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The past two Sundays have ironically both involved a cinematic ballet experience of some kind, with a trek up to Cambridge to see Ballet 422 last weekend and a drive to East Greenwich yesterday for a screening of The Bolshoi’s Romeo & Juliet.  The two shows were vastly different, save their only similarities seated in the audience: a combination of bunheads and bald heads…my kinda crowd.

Following New York City Ballet corps member and resident choreographer, Justin Peck, Jody Lee Lipes’ Ballet 422 offers up an impressive array of balletic athleticism and choreographic innovation, wrought with a generous supply of stylish #BTS shots.  Mr. Peck, at the tender age of 25, exudes professionalism and creative depth beyond his years, and the entire company (especially featured principal, Tiler Peck) demonstrates a skill level and quickness of movement that only the NYCB can deliver.  Of course it suits that these inspired minds belong to NYCB, a company founded on choreographic liberation and the freedom to create entirely new movement.  An artistic peek into the modern world of ballet, the film provides a backstage guide to the choreographic, rehearsal, staging and performance process of a world premiere at the historic Koch theatre.  I truly enjoyed seeing the magnificent costume department and the care that goes into each garment, as well as the showcase of talented orchestral musicians and powerful NYCB dancers, but without any real narration or interviews to speak of, Magnolia Pictures may want to consider renaming the film Justin Peck Relaxes Face While Thinking.*

The Bolshoi’s R&J on the big screen could not have been more opposite; One of the world’s oldest companies performing one of literature’s oldest tragedies in ballet’s most traditionally classic choreographic style.  In three words, it. was. dramatic.  Of course, drama is to be expected from a famously grim love story in which so many crucial characters suffer an untimely death**, but there’s something about this particular rendition that seemed just a bit over the top to me.  Maybe it was Tybalt’s refusal to die without a lingering (re: dragging) “death dance” for the books, but that’s probably just my impatient millennial mind at work there.  Gorgeous in its classicism, but predictable by nature, this show separates the diehard traditionalists from those of us who chuckled when Lady Capulet practically dislocated her shoulder tossing herself onto her nephew’s dead body about fifteen times (Mom, I’m looking at you!).

So, have any of you seen either production?  What did you think?

*Spoiler Alert: Justin Peck’s “deep in thought” face comprises 90% of the film.

**Yet another spoiler, everyone dies.  Sorry for giving away the ending, guys.

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