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HIDDEN TREASURE UNCOVERED

A pre-performance talk before Neglia Ballet Artist's production of "Romeo and Juliet" characterized the dance company as Buffalo's "hidden treasure." After this weekend's performances by the group, the term "hidden" may no longer apply.

Although "Romeo and Juliet" was a low budget production, co-artistic directors/dancers Sergio Neglia and Heidi Halt made the most of sparse sets, props and a cast of predominantly pre-professional dancers to produce a largely satisfying performance.

NBA's production was an adaptation of former Moscow Festival Ballet principal dancer Rafael Grigorian's original version of the ballet. Grigorian's choreography for "Romeo and Juliet" followed traditional storylines and was set to Sergei Prokofiev's often used dynamic score for the ballet.

The three-act, 12-scene ballet was virtually non-stop dance that challenged NBA's young dance corps. Lively sword battles, a multitude of celebratory dances, a forcefully elegant ballroom dance and several well crafted and moving pas de deux dances for the ballet's lead couple highlighted the production.

Former North Carolina Dance Theatre principal dancer Hernan Justo turned in a solid dance performance in the role of Tybalt. Justo's mature acting ability and ease of movement stood out amongst his fellow male dancers. Other standouts were Halt as an elegant and regal Lady Capulet and Elizabeth Elkin, whose graceful movement and delicate pointe work shone in several roles.

It was the ballet's lead couple, however, that captivated the audience and provided the most dominate dance performances.

Neglia and Sherri Campagni's chemistry as a pair was especially apparent in an emotionally riveting pas de deux from the ballet's famous balcony scene.

Grigorian's choreography for the pas de deux was beautifully structured, and the pair danced it with conviction and passion.

Neglia and Campagni were also captivating in the ballet's final scenes.

For a sophisticated dance audience, NBA's production of "Romeo and Juliet" may have fallen short with respect to production value and overall dancer skill. However, Neglia and Campagni's charismatic performances easily made up for any shortfalls.

In its entirety, Neglia Ballet Artist's "Romeo and Juliet" was a fine effort by the fledgling ballet company. It is an effort that bodes well for its future, and for the future of dance in Buffalo.

RATING: 1 1/2 STARS

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