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Leslie Carothers In Joffrey 'Romeo'

May 20, 1986|LEWIS SEGAL | Times Dance Writer

Imagine dancing your very first Juliet with the Joffrey Ballet. You reach the scene in Act III where Friar Laurence gives you the sleeping potion and then, after his exit, discover that the backdrop is stuck. It refuses to rise.

There you are, marooned alone on stage at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, repeating your transitional walking steps while the music plays on. At last (to relieved applause), the backdrop heaves upward and you manage to improvise a quick precis of the confrontation scene with Paris and the Capulets before catching up with the music and dancing your potion solo. What a nightmare!

Unfortunately, Leslie Carothers doesn't have to imagine any of this: It happened to her Sunday afternoon. Of course, she endured it all stoically--anyone who submits her body to the "Light Rain" pas de deux season after season must be accustomed to living on the edge.

But the mishap makes unfair any critical evaluation of Carothers' crucial final scenes--it is the character we should feel sorry for at that point, not the dancer.

Up to the incident, Carothers' Juliet had been notable more for spirited and meticulous dancing than emotional depth. Indeed, those reaching arms that recur so often in the role and can say so many different things had said almost nothing in her performance.

Carothers is an uncommonly tall, sharp-featured dancer seldom cast in dramatic ballets, and she has yet to shape a conception of Juliet suited to her physique, temperament and remarkable technical powers. But give her time.

In his first performance as Romeo, Ashley Wheater danced with a sophistication and passion belonging to a different character from the likable, hulking lout he portrayed in the mime passages. A large, soft-looking, puppyish Romeo might be plausible enough--but not when he dances like an aristocratic firebrand.

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