On April 15, 2022, the audience streamed into the Segerstrom Center for the Arts for the opening night performance of Les Ballets de Monte Carlo’s Romeo and Juliet in Costa Mesa. The Segerstrom made sure everyone had been vaccinated or had a negative Covid test. Security was being enforced with metal detectors as the crowd rushed to be seated in time to make the show. Before the curtain lifted, the show’s name and titles were cleverly highlighted and once up, a breath of fresh aired European elegance enveloped the stage reminding everyone that ballet is about characters, sinuous movement, and graceful technical excellence.

Les Ballets de Monte Carlo - "Romeo et Juliette" - Photo: © Alice Blangero

Les Ballets de Monte Carlo – “Romeo et Juliette” – Photo: © Alice Blangero

The scenery by Ernest Pignon-Ernestm is sparse but possesses a clean, magical futuristic element. The French costume designer Jérôme Kaplan’s esthetic incorporated plain earth colors except for the Capulet family which he dressed in black. Dominique Drillot’s lighting design appears basic at first but he uses his talents more effectively for the scenes in the 3rd Act. These spare costumes combined with the stark background aid one to focus on the dancers and the choreography. Here is where choreographer Jean-Christophe Maillot shines, his crafted movements are seamless and blend together beautifully throughout the entire performance. His work allows for artistic upper torso drift, while building a strong perspective for each character’s personality.

Mr. Maillot creates contemporary formed steps that remain powerfully grounded in classical technique and his shaped partnered moments remain smooth and silky while he expertly conveys the storyline. Ukrainian ballet composer Sergueï Prokofiev created this historic score somewhere between 1935 and 1940 for the Kirov’s debut of Romeo and Juliet and Mr. Maillot’s use of the composition flows effortlessly together in time. His direction offers the performers hints of sexiness, comedic timing, and dramatic enactment.

Les Ballets de Monte Carlo - "Roméo et Juliette" - Photo: © Alice Blangero

Les Ballets de Monte Carlo – “Roméo et Juliette” – Photo: © Alice Blangero

The principal characters uniquely stand out and move the story forward, while highlighting their technical skills and love for their craft. Juliet played by Anna Blackwell has a playful style and is lightheartedly coquette with her Romeo. Her use of her legs and feet are a beautiful mixture of strength and sexiness. Jerome Tisserand as Romeo jests with his friends, remaining strong while conveying a youthful spirit. Mr. Tisserand comes across as a true romantic, while Ms. Blackwell is more of the frisky instigator. A nice twist.

Les Ballets de Monte Carlo - "Romeo and Juliet" - Photo © Alice Blangero

Les Ballets de Monte Carlo – “Romeo and Juliet” – Photo © Alice Blangero

It was so lovely to see that the whole company is committed to the narrative and the scenes. A favorite of the evening was American born ballerina Laura Tisserand, her role as Lady Capulet is sensual and commanding, while having a pleasing feminine quality. The release of her beautiful long hair, in the 2nd Act, is breathtakingly gorgeous and took the stage by storm. It is unique to see a version where Lady Capulet has such a profound dancing role. A pivotal part in the presentation from Friar Laurence portrayed by the handsome Matěj Urban was prevailingly dramatic and delivered a confident yet troubled persona. California native Hannah Wilcox is believable and eager as La Nourrice. Tybalt personified by Christian Assis was solidly authoritative in nature and he proved to have a striking stage presence. Daniele Delvecchio is a flashy fun Mercutio and Adam Reist is a showy entertaining Benvolio. Both are a unified pair and add flair to the program. Mr. Delvecchio has an ideal use of his head in movements while Mr. Reist’s arms are delightfully expansive.

Les Ballets de Monte Carlo - "Romeo et Juliette" - Photo: © Alice Blangero

Les Ballets de Monte Carlo – “Romeo et Juliette” – Photo: © Alice Blangero

There are many high leveled steps and lifts, however the focus is not on how difficult a step is and it is a compliment to the company that they make everything look effortless. It is due to this incredible cast that one is drawn into the story and truly enjoys the journey. This production has all the elements of a successful ballet ranging from comedy to tragedy and nuances of playfulness and passion. It is understandable why so many companies have commissioned Mr. Maillot’s version of Romeo and Juliet. Those lucky enough to have seen it Easter weekend were able to see it from the source. The company travels all over the world and it is apparent that this company Les Ballet de Monte-Carlo is a favorite with Orange County and Los Angeles audiences.

To learn more about Les Ballets de Monte Carlo, please visit their website.

To see the entire season at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, please visit their website.

Written by Alice Alyse for LA Dance Chronicle.

Featured image: Les Ballets de Monte Carlo – Romeo et Juliette – Photo: © Alice Blangero

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