Romance in Any Language

Looking for a Valentine’s Day gift? Check out a new French ballet interpretation of “Roméo and Juliette.”

New Orleans is one of America’s most romantic cities. The dawn and dusk of the day enjoy a filtered light viewed as a late night is ending or revelry is just beginning. The lazy Mississippi River encourages walking hand-in-hand, the ironwork balconies inspire quiet shared moments and the raw oysters have their aphrodisiac reputation as well. It’s no wonder so many couples are drawn to visit our beautiful city.

With romance in mind, February brings not only Mardi Gras magic and Valentine’s Day sweethearts, this year it also brings one of the world’s most tragic love stories as told through the art of dance.

Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo begins its North American tour in New Orleans on Feb. 24 with a special full-evening performance of Roméo and Juliette at the Mahalia Jackson Theater. The Italian story, as written by an Englishman, gets a French interpretation through the vision of world-renowned choreographer and director Jean-Christophe Maillot.

This version of the ballet, set to the classic Prokofiev score, has been described as ultra-modern, but its timing is historic, as the New Orleans Ballet Association (NOBA) is bringing this production to New Orleans as part of the city’s Tricentennial celebrations.

“NOBA couldn’t be prouder to celebrate NOLA’s history through this partnership with one of the world’s most prestigious ballet companies,” said Jenny Hamilton, executive director of NOBA. “For us, this celebration is about coming together and sharing talents to showcase what truly makes up the fabric of our city. For our organization to bring this caliber of performing arts to NOLA while extending our close relationship with Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo is a great honor. Dance is intertwined into the city’s DNA, so it only made sense to bring such an acclaimed performance into the Tricentennial celebration events.”

Ballet has long been a part of the New Orleans cultural scene. According to Know Louisiana, a digital encyclopedia of Louisiana produced by the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, the first-known ballet presented in New Orleans was in 1799. Within 20 years the demand for ballet was so strong that the proprietor of the Orleans Theater, John Davis, went to Europe to recruit dancers. Davis returned to New Orleans with Jean Rousset, the premier dancer at Paris’ Porte Saint-Martin theater, and Monsieur Olivier, a pupil of ballet at the Paris Opera, along with his dancer wife.

One reason credited for ballet’s enormous popularity at the time was that New Orleans was a linguistically diverse city of 20,000. Ballet, as opposed to opera, relied on the art of pantomime and universal language of music to tell the stories. Just as audiences today sometimes struggle with the Italian or German of many classic operas, they can more easily follow the plot of a beautifully choreographed ballet.

Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo promises to bring just such a performance with its “Roméo and Juliette.” New Orleans is the first of only three U.S. cities to host the ballet company’s production this year. It’s through NOBA’s advocacy that New Orleans is one of the lucky few.

“NOBA has had a very close relationship with Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo for over a decade, and of course, the city has close ties to Monaco – in a way, this event can be considered a gift to the people of New Orleans,” explained Hamilton. “NOBA worked with the dance company, as well as colleagues in Minneapolis and Chicago to bring the troupe to the States, and we are honored to kick off the tour here in New Orleans as a featured event of the Tricentennial and of a week of activities celebrating the relationship between this great city and state and Monaco.”

The company of 50 dancers will perform the ballet in three acts, with an intermission between the first and second acts. Approximately two hours and 15 minutes of gorgeous dancing will transport all the (hopefully not star-crossed) lovers in the audience.

Tickets are available starting at $40 and can be purchased by phone or online at (504) 522-0996, Ext. 201 or at

Jennifer Gibson Schecter was once a tourist in New Orleans herself and is now proud to call NOLA home. She also writes the Wednesday Tourism Blog on