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ROMEO & JULIET, ABRIDGED : Ballet Pacifica Director Choreographs Her Own, Small-Scale Version of the Tragic Tale

June 03, 1993|CHRIS PASLES | Chris Pasles covers music and dance for The Times Orange County Edition.

Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" has inspired choreographers as far back as 1785. Some of the high-profile names of our time who have turned the play into a ballet include Frederick Ashton, John Cranko, Leonid Lavrovsky, Serge Lifar, Kenneth MacMillan, John Neumeier, Rudolf Nureyev, Michael Smuin and Antony Tudor.

Such an elite group must inspire trepidation for anyone else coming along. But Ballet Pacifica director Molly Lynch has no intention of competing with those names in the version she has created for her Laguna Beach-based company.

"I'm sticking my neck out, but also I'm not trying to do MacMillan or Cranko," Lynch said. "We're a chamber-sized company, and we're doing a chamber-sized version of 'Romeo and Juliet.' "

The Lynch version, for the company of nine women and five men, will receive its premiere performances this weekend at the Irvine Barclay Theatre.

Lynch said she was drawn to the famous story because it "touches lives today. I wanted to depict the emotional elements that I feel come from the story itself. I try to approach them with a sense of the Italian Renaissance, but in a contemporary way."

For music, Lynch has turned to the two suites that Serge Prokofiev derived from his full-length "Romeo and Juliet" score. But because the suites are arranged according to musical impact, rather than following the plot, Lynch has "rearranged them" so she could tell the well-known story.

"What I'm trying to do is pull out some of the musical elements that are familiar and important to the story and tell the story in a pared down way."

Janine Paulson will dance Juliet and Daren Savage will dance Romeo.

"All the other company members basically double up as townspeople, ball guests, as well as playing individual dancers," Lynch said. "They will be working as an ensemble as well as dancing individual roles."

The ballet is Lynch's most ambitious effort to date. Lasting about 45 minutes, it is almost twice as long as anything else she's created. Other works she has choreographed include "Different Trains" to music of the same name by Steve Reich, "Eight Lines" (also by Reich), "Three Romances" (Schumann), "Les Femmes" (Poulenc), and "Parallel Play" (a collaboration with former UCI composer Paul Hodgins).

"It's a lot to bite off," she said. "You never have enough time to rehearse, but I think we'll be OK. . . . I'm trying to do the best job I can in this situation. I hope that people have some sort of reaction to it."

Right now she feels "too close to it," to judge the work. "I can't tell whether it works or not. We'll see when it goes on. It's a risk."

But it's a risk she hopes will pay off in practical terms. "One thing I see down the line is doing some touring," she said. "You have to think about what you can sell at different venues, universities or colleges or whatever. You put together a program they would be interested in doing. That's part of my thinking in doing this repertory."

The program also will include Monica Levy's "Glass," to music by Morton Subotnick, and Deborah Appleton's "Fantacia" to a score by Tchaikovsky.

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