Seth Orza = Heartthrob Romeo, For Sure(!), But Production Still Lacked Intensity…

Last night I decided last minute to see Martins’s “Romeo + Juliet” at NY City Ballet again. Okay, I just couldn’t resist wondering what Seth Orza looked like in the lead :) I have to say, its sweetness grew a little on me seeing it a second time. Could have been, of course, just watching gorgeous, hunky uber-mensch Orza :) Interestingly, Alastair Macaulay in the Times compared the four pairs of leads and concluded that this was his favorite set, a view shared by NY Observer’s Robert Gottlieb, who wrote a rather humorously sardonic review. Though I liked Orza a lot, I still feel like there was something significant missing.

Orza doesn’t show a lot of facial expression; he’s more stoic and serious-looking, or perhaps a bit shy-seeming even, somewhat like Herman Cornejo of ABT. But this isn’t a bad thing; his body is more his instrument of expression. When he grabbed that sword and walked toward Tybalt following Mercutio’s slaying, he needed no facial emotion — I was terrified for Tybalt! And he’s so strong — he just scoops up his ballerinas, raises them high above his head and carries them all around stage, which just oozes with romance! And he’s just so handsome in that classic movie-star / Rock Hudson way, he doesn’t really need to “act”; he just naturally IS a romantic leading man.

My problem with Morgan was that I thought she was too much the opposite of him. She over-emoted, acting like a crying little girl throwing a temper tantrum when her parents pushed her to Paris, and, at the end, she threw up her arms and beat the sky in over-acted despair before she even fully turned around to see Romeo lying dead. I thought she might have been better partnered with Robert Fairchild, the younger, more impetuous Romeo, but paired with Orza, she seemed more like his little sister. I know he’s not much older than she, but perhaps because of his more calm demeanor, or his large body and upright, manly posture, he seemed so much older. I prefer to see him partnered with more mature, sophisticated ballerinas like Miranda Weese, as he was in Evenfall. They were beautiful together in that ballet! Of course, maybe it’s the Nureyev / Fonteyn mystique that I so long to see re-appear in the present day, of which there is a tiny bit in the Marcelo / Julie dynamic at ABT… I also found a few technical glitches — at one point during the balcony scene, it looked like she slipped, then, when they repeated the step, I realized it was a slide. I don’t remember it looking like a mistake though when Sterling Hyltin performed it.

But, speaking of the greats of yore, do the young dancers of today ever watch them, ever pay close attention, dissecting what exactly it was that made them who they were? What is still so missing, I feel, is that the dancers don’t seem to know entirely the dynamic of the ballet they’re performing. The bedroom pas de deux is almost the same — both stylistically and choregraphically — as the balcony scene. Juliet acts silly and girlish and excited. But her new husband has murdered her cousin and consequently been banished from Verona — that’s kind of a big thing. If I remember correctly, Nureyev and Fonteyn gave that scene so much more passion, so much more tragedy…

I remember Julio Bocca saying that ABT used to be far different than it was today: in the past, the dancers used to watch each other intensely in the wings; today everyone is too interested in their cell phones to care about what makes a great dancer. That’s simply pathetic. I once saw Jose Carreno in the wings at City Center watching, with much intensity, Angel Corella perform Sinatra Suite. Jose is of that Julio generation, and it’s not at all surprising to me why he is so far above his fellow dancers when it comes to many of the big story-ballet roles. I find it tragic that he’s not going to be around that much longer…

A classical musician named Griffin recently posted some very interesting comments on my former post about Macaulay’s criticism of NYCB and Balanchine (I haven’t yet figured out how to have “recent comments” show above the blogroll, but those comments are really interesting and are worth looking at) saying more attention needs to be paid to the ballerinas on whom Balanchine created those ballets. I also just think that in general dancers need to pay more attention to the past and current greats. Pounding your fists at the air is not showing grief; that emotion needs to come from far deeper within. Watch Margot Fonteyn dancing with Nureyev, or for a live rendition, go watch Alessandra Ferri show grief and despair when she performs the role at ABT in July — but hurry up, she is about to retire…

Finally, just one more thought about Tyler Angle, who was cast last night as Tybalt. I find him to be a very interesting dancer, and a beautiful man with a very striking, dramatic face that’s full of expression and on which he just loves to apply that make-up! It’s fun and it’s his thing and I love that he stands out to me whenever he is onstage, but I think he was miscast as Tybalt. Tybalt is, in a sentence, a hyper-masculine, testosterone-laden, aggressive bad-ass and I thought Tyler was a bit too flamboyant. When Orza’s Romeo went after him following Mercutio’s slaying, it seemed like an unfair fight. I wanna see more of Angle for sure, just not as Tybalt!

11 Comments

  1. I love reading your reviews! I wish I could of seen Morgan and Orza, since Kathryn danced with Mobile Ballet for so many years–and was in all the same classes with Dione since they were like…10! But she invited us to see her in a couple of weeks in “Carosel,” (I feel like I spelled that wrong!) so we might go then.

  2. Oh thanks, Ariel, you’re so sweet! I think they perform in Carousel together and you should definitely see it! Now I hope I wasn’t a little too harsh… I think she was a really good dancer, I just think, artistically, it always helps to study the greats … And that goes for ALL of the dancers, of both of the two main companies here, definitely not just her!

  3. Tonya, interesting post. Thank you for the shoutout, but also thank you for blogging intelligently and thoughtfully on dance. I am enjoying past posts on your blog.

    After reading a recent review on the Boston Ballet performance I just saw, I came to learn that there were 3 or 4 different casts the Ballets. The program was only danced over 4 nights, and I have to blame a lack of “getting it” not solely on the dancers, but on the directors of Boston Ballet. Dancers need time to grow into roles and switching casts around.

    One of the first criticisms of Martins as director of NYCB was his multiple castings of ballets. In Robert Garris book, Following Balanchine, he notes that the current cast of – I believe it was Liebesleider Waltz, was being danced by the Principals of the company (Farrell, Watts, etc.) while Martins then assigned a 2nd cast, full of soloists and less experienced dancers. In Garris opinion, this 2nd casting was not successful. Although more fair by allowing more dancers to dance, it did rob the audience of the full experience of that Ballet. Garris argues that the dancers in the 2nd cast weren’t ready or right for the roles.

    Hearing that R+J has 4 different castings is somewhat disturbing. While it leads to interesting comparisons to critique, I do wonder if it stunts the growth of the ballet. It seems many companies squeeze in as many casts as possible nowadays – perhaps due to the high level of technique amoung a large quanitity of dancers. But there still seems to be as few true stars as there ever was.

    What are your thoughts?

  4. Tonya, I’m not going to post too in detail about my thoughts on the blog but I enjoyed reading your post.

    As for ABT being different, there is no doubt about that as I am sure any company shifts from generation to generation. However, I find that we all support each other a lot or at least I know I try to make it to the wings as much as possible and see a lot of people doing the same. Often we can’t because of costume changes or things like that which is always frustrating.

    It has always confused me some dancers that I know who say they “don’t like to watch dance.” I find that not only watching the past (which I admittedly did more when I was in school than now) but watching the artists of the present is so very important. You not only find what you like but also what you dislike which can inform you as an artist in equal measure. At least that’s my opinion.

  5. Thanks for the nice compliment, Griffin! That’s interesting about how having so many casts can affect the quality of the ballet. I only really know ABT and NYCB, and I’m still pretty new to NYCB, but I know that both companies alternate casts, although NYCB seems to have more dancers in the same role. And four casts IS a lot, especially for a brand new ballet. Martins choreographed this on one set of dancers, so I wonder how much time the other casts had to delve into their roles and how much time they had for coaching sessions with Martins. With the older ballets, such as the MacMillan version performed by ABT, I assume most of the dancers are probably already familiar with the choreography, and there have been so many different dancers performing that same version that I figure the dancers may not need as much individual coaching. Maybe — a professional dancer would have a lot more insight. Kevin McKenzie, however, is premiering his new version of Sleeping Beauty in June, and, from the casting list so far, that seems to have many different casts as well, so it’ll be interesting to see how that pans out…

    I feel like a professional dancer would be better able to answer your question — which is a really good one — but I’d think it’s necessary to have two casts in case of a serious injury, or so the casts can rest. I know just from hearing dancers speak at panel discussions and on their blogs that one performance of a story ballet can really wipe them out for a day or two, so dancing the same long ballet two nights in a row is probably an injury waiting to happen.

    But, John Rockwell, the recently-retired NYTimes chief critic, wrote an article a few months ago arguing that the ballet companies should operate more like the Met Opera and alternate the ballets performed each night, so that the same one was not being performed for an entire week in a row. That would enable one cast to perform the same ballet without getting tired. He was more concerned with ballet companies creating star dancers and he argued that if one dancer was known for a certain role it would further that aim. It was an intriguing thought and I wondered what ballet companies had to say about it, but there wasn’t really any talk.

    M — thanks for that! I was probably too harsh; one of the reasons Jose is Jose after all is that he’s a lot older than most of the others and has had far more time to develop his artistry! And I totally forgot about the costume changes and not having time to get out to the wings… The dancers who don’t like to watch dance confuse me too, but there are a ridiculous amount of writers who don’t read as well — I think both are crazy and I totally agree with you about it informing your own artistry! But I’m glad to hear that everyone is really supportive at ABT :) Thanks for your input — I am going to miss you when you go back to dancing full-time :)

  6. Tonya, I agree with you about Orza. I didn’t see him this week but did see him paired with Morgan last week. Orza looks great in the role and danced very well but I never really believed he was madly in love. He just didn’t express enough emotion for me – maybe, as you noted, it was the lack of facial expression. I have to disagree with you on Kathryn Morgan, however. While you thought she over-emoted, I felt that her acting was near perfect – she is not only a beautiful dancer but she made me really believe that she was Juliet. I was so caught up in her performance that I hardly noticed the fact that there relatively little dance in Act II. Even Macauley in the Times spoke of her as having an “already remarkably eloquent blend of bloom, spontaneity and rapture.” He also said that she, more than the other Juliets, “makes the dance imagery sexual.” You described her as acting “like a crying little girl throwing a temper tantrum.” But Juliet in the play is only 14 years old. Isn’t that exactly how a 14 year old girl in her situation would act? Of course, Margot Fonteyn would never act that way, but isn’t that that the point – Margot Fonteyn, when she danced the role, was many, many years removed from
    14. I’m not trying to suggest that Morgan is performing the role better than Fonteyn – that would be silly. What I’m saying is that she is doing it differently, doing it very youthfully, just as Martins intended. There will never be another Fonteyn, but isn’t it wonderful that we now have a Morgan, with a new approach to the role. But I do want to agree with your observation that Morgan might have been better paired with Rob Fairchild. Maybe in this ballet, at least, Orza’s style was too different from Morgan’s. I think that physically and emotionally FAirchild and Morgan as R & J would be an unbeatable combination. Nonetheless, I do want to see Orza and Morgan together again in Carousel.

    I agree with you totally about Tyler Angle as Tybalt – I felt exactly the way you did. Angle is a superb dancer but I didn’t feel he was quite right for that role, for the exact reasons that you gave. DeLuz, on the other hand, made an ideal Tybalt.

    I will be seeing Sterling and Rob on Sunday. I’m eager to see how far they have come since that dress rehearsal I saw them in two weeks ago. By the way, what did you think about all those promotions that were announced this week? Landing key roles in R & J really paid off for some of these young dancers.

  7. Kathryn Morgan is 19, she is gorgeoius, she is a wonderful dancer. I agree with Bob(He’s a friend of mine and we saw the same performance on May 3.)

    Let us cherish the dancers we have at NYCB, and let us leave the past behind. On the Ballet Yalk blog, the whining is impossible. Suzanne is retired and Ballanchine is dead.

    Cherish the now.

  8. “Cherish the now” – thank you, Jim, for those words of wisdom. There’s an old saying in the ballet world that “legends always leap higher.” Let us always honor those legends (though realizing at the same time that maybe they didn’t leap quite as high as we might like to remember) but let us also enjoy the great dancers we have TODAY. And just for the record, that was one of the most important lessons Balanchine taught us, and he did so over and over again.

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