New ‘Romeo and Juliet’ Ballet Has U.S. Premiere at Jacob’s Pillow

Ballet du Grand Théâtre de Genève in 'Romeo and Juliet' (photo Magali Dougados)

(BECKET, Mass, June 21, 2011) – Switzerland’s acclaimed Ballet du Grand Théâtre de Genève returns to Jacob’s Pillow for the first time since its 2007 U.S. debut, Wednesday, June 22 through Sunday, June 26 in the Ted Shawn Theatre, with a world premiere of its new staging of Romeo and Juliet, created by French choreographer Joëlle Bouvier in a re-imagined contemporary ballet that breathes new life into the classic Shakespearean love story.

Ballet Genève, called “one of the most original and inventive in Europe” by La Presse de Tunisie, was established in 1962 by the Geneva Opera House, and has since worked with artists such as Mikhail Baryshnikov, Lucinda Childs, Rudolf Nureyev, Ohad Naharin, and William Forsythe.

“Who could say ‘no’ to one of the great love stories of the world, performed by gorgeous ballet dancers, to one of Prokofiev’s most famous and exciting scores?” asked Ella Baff, executive and artistic director of Jacob’s Pillow, rhetorically.

Joëlle Bouvier’s full-length Romeo and Juliet develops the historically classical tale of star-crossed lovers into a contemporary ballet. The company effortlessly combines intimate, organic movement with the more traditional partnering and narrative associated with Romeo and Juliet, resulting in “one of the most beautiful evenings in choreography in recent times” (Le Nouvel Observateur).

Ballet du Grand Théâtre de Genève in 'Romeo and Juliet' (photo Magali Dougados)

The dancing is rich with leaps, turns, and fresh energy, as the familiar story offers storied passionate duels and joyous ensemble scenes. Twenty-two “sleek, skillful dancers” (the Boston Globe) weave a brilliant connection between the classic Sergei Prokofiev score and redesigned sets, creating an accessible and emotion-driven performance. “[Ballet Genève’s] director, Philippe Cohen, seems to have a taste for understated choreographic modernists and…unobtrusively individual performers, all of them exceptionally supple ballet-trained dancers” (Jennifer Dunning in the New York Times).

For Bouvier, Romeo and Juliet was an opportunity to contribute her own choreographic voice to the original score from the classic ballet. She was inspired by the timelessness of the plot, explaining the continual relevance of Romeo and Juliet in this way: “How many wars in the world today reflect the tragedy of Shakespeare? This is why I chose not to situate my story in a precise time. For the scenery and costumes, we will remain timeless, because this story takes place, has taken place and has yet to take place everywhere.”

Ballet du Grand Théâtre de Genève was first established in 1962, when the Geneva Opera House reopened after a devastating fire in 1951. Previously, the Geneva Opera House had hosted renowned dancers including Isadora Duncan and Vaslav Nijinsky with the Ballets Russes, yet it did not establish its own ballet company until the reopening of the theatre. Since then, the classically-trained dancers have presented works ranging from neo-classical to contemporary. George Balanchine served as artistic advisor beginning in 1970, and the company is currently under the direction of Philippe Cohen. The company consists of 22 dancers of varying nationalities, presenting both new and repertory works every year. The company performed at Jacob’s Pillow in 2007. Read a review of that performance by Seth Rogovoy.

Joëlle Bouvier, a European contemporary choreographer, has been directing her own company since 1998. Her work has previously been presented at the Pillow in 1989 and 1990 by the company L’Esquisse, for whom she was a dancer and co-director at the time. Bouvier was awarded the Dance Grand Prize of the Society of Dramatic Authors and Composers and in 2000 was honored with the distinction of Officier des Arts et Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture.

A PillowTalk will be held on Thursday, June 23 at 5 to explore how the story of Romeo and Juliet has been implemented and executed in various dance works. Faculty members of The School at Jacob’s Pillow Ballet, Program Director Anna-Marie Holmes and Joffery Ballet Artistic Director Ashley Wheater, will be joined by Ballet Genève’s Philippe Cohen to offer their perspectives. PillowTalks are free and open to the public, and offer rare interaction with artists and experts in the field with in-depth discussions, moderated interviews, film screenings, and book signings.

Performance and Ticket Information
Ted Shawn Theatre
Wednesday, June 22 through Saturday, June 25 at 8pm
Saturday, June 25 and Sunday, June 26 at 2pm

Free Pre-Show Talks with Jacob’s Pillow Scholars-in-Residence are offered in Blake’s Barn 30 minutes before every performance.

Tickets $10-64.50. Now on sale online at Jacob’s Pillow, via phone at 413.243.0745 or in person at the Jacob’s Pillow Box Office. $10 Youth tickets, sponsored by Alex®, are available for the Saturday and Sunday matinees.

Under 35 Fridays: As part of the Pillow’s younger audiences initiative: $35 under 35 tickets (for individuals 35 and younger) are available for the Friday evening performance of Ballet Genève. Limit two (2) per person, must show valid I.D. when tickets are picked up. Under 35 ticket holders will also receive a bonus gift from Under 35 Fridays sponsor Blue Q,

Box Office hours April 4-June 17: Monday through Friday 10am-4pm

June 20-August 31: Monday and Tuesday 10am-6pm, Wednesday through Saturday 10am-8pm, and

Sunday 12pm-5:30pm.

Pillow Members receive exclusive benefits. To become a Member call 413.243.9919 x125.

Jacob’s Pillow is located at 358 George Carter Road in Becket, Mass. (10 minutes east on Route 20 from Mass Pike Exit 2). The Jacob’s Pillow campus and theaters are handicapped-accessible.

Free Events at the Pillow June 22-26

Free Inside/Out Performance – Inside/Out Grand Re-Opening with The Vanaver Caravan

Marcia & Seymour Simon Performance Space

SPECIAL TIME Wednesday, June 22, 5:45pm

Join us to celebrate the opening of the brand new Henry J. Leir stage. Following the ceremony, the popular Vanaver Caravan will perform live music and excerpts of Earthbeat!, featuring dance styles from around the world. The Vanaver Caravan was one of the first companies to dance on the former stage 30 years ago.


Free PillowTalk Discussion – Romeo and Juliet and Ballet

Thursday, June 23, 5pm

For more than two hundred years, choreographers have been creating dance versions of Romeo and Juliet. In this discussion of various approaches, Ballet Genève’s Philippe Cohen joins faculty members of The School at Jacob’s Pillow: Ballet Program Director Anna-Marie Holmes and Joffrey Ballet Artistic Director Ashley Wheater.


Free Inside/Out Performance – James Hansen Dance

Marcia & Seymour Simon Performance Space

Thursday, June 23, 6:15pm

The music of Frank Sinatra and Cher meet in Lovely, a contemporary dance evoking the drama and humor of relationships. In Switching Yard, dancers combine social dance and techno Latin music to build complex partnering sequences.


Free Inside/Out Performance – Hilary Easton + Company

Marcia & Seymour Simon Performance Space

Friday, June 24, 6:15pm

The dancers in Easton’s Light and Shade illustrate the daily negotiations, conflicts, and resolutions that occur in a long-term relationship, through snippets of conversation and precise, intimate movement.


Free PillowTalk Discussion – Barbara Morgan’s Modern Classics

Saturday, June 25, 4pm

The images created by photographer Barbara Morgan in the 1930s and 40s have inspired contemporary artists including Annie Leibovitz, and continue to define our image of that seminal time in modern dance history. This exploration of her legacy celebrates the exhibition on view this season in the Doris Duke Theatre lobby.


Free Inside/Out Performance – The School at Jacob’s Pillow: Ballet

Marcia & Seymour Simon Performance Space

Saturday, June 25, 6:15pm

To conclude their study in the Ballet Program, dancers present classical ballet variations coached by Program Director Anna-Marie Holmes and Joffrey Ballet Artistic Director Ashley Wheater, plus a new work by Houston Ballet Artistic Director Stanton Welch.



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