Home
Reviews
Archive
Listings
About Us
Email

Production

Romeo and Juliet

Company

Stuttgart Ballet

Reviewer

Stephanie Burridge

Date

03/02/2007

Time

8.00pm

Place

The Esplanade Theatre

Rating

*****

Violent Delights

The full company of 70 dancers and technical crew from the Stuttgart Ballet visited Singapore with its critically acclaimed production of John Cranko's Romeo and Juliet, complete with lavish renaissance costumes and breathtaking sets. There were many great moments in the performance. It was a platform for the highest level of classical technique combined with superb production elements that were colourful, lively and fun.

Cranko first choreographed Romeo and Juliet in 1958 for the La Scala Ballet in Milan, then in 1962 reworked and refined it for the Stuttgart Ballet, which he directed from 1961 until his death in 1973. Earlier versions include those by Bronislava Nijinska, choreographed in 1926, and perhaps the other best known one was made by Kenneth MacMillan for the Royal Ballet in 1965. It is interesting to contemplate how audiences today respond to both the ballet and Shakespeare's story of the star-crossed lovers. In the first instance, it recounts an age-old narrative of young lovers from opposing families, the Capulets and the Montagues. Although Cranko's ballet follows Shakespeare's narrative, audiences are also familiar with Jerome Robbins' West Side Story and countless adaptations of the same plot for the stage and screen.

Act one sets the scene at the marketplace, where the first signs of friction between the two rival clans unfold. There are sword fights galore, peasants tossing rotten fruit in disgust at the opposing clan and a superb trio, featuring multiple double tours, danced by Romeo and his friends Mercutio and Benvolio. They hatch a plot to infiltrate the Capulets' forthcoming masked ball. Meanwhile, Juliet is presented with her first ball dress for the occasion and has a playful dance with her faithful nurse. The famous cushion dance at the ball features black and gold costumes that literally float as the dancers move to the famous Prokofiev score. The corps de ballet has depth and superb technique - one felt at any moment a number of the dancers could have stepped into the principal roles. When they encounter each other at the ball, it is love at first sight for Romeo and Juliet. The famous balcony scene ends act one when the lovers declare their undying love - it is a showcase for virtuosic dancing of the level expected from one of the top-ranked ballet companies in the world today.

The principal dancers represented the quintessential ideal of a prima ballerina. With 180-degree extensions, beautiful lines, light jumps and perfectly balanced pirouettes, each embodied the 15-year-old love-struck heroine in her own way. Perhaps Elena Tentchikowa gave it a stronger dramatic passion, while Alicia Amatriain was more innocent and fragile in her portrayal. Few male dancers in the world can bring to the stage unblemished technique with the good looks and acting prowess of Jason Reilly. His exhuberance in the role was matched with powerful partnering, boyish humour and sheer charm. The chin-ups to kiss Julliet on her balcony was inspired choreography and epitomised the youthfullness of these star crossed lovers. Filip Barankiewicz has one of the highest grande jetés in the ballet world - his dancing was breathtaking at the matinee, although it perhaps lacked the charisma of Reilly.

Back at the marketplace, act two featured clowns, acrobats and straw masks at the harvest festival - it all added to the carnival atmosphere of a village scene in Verona. The mood is broken by a cross to Friar Laurence at the chapel, where he secretly marries Romeo and Juliet. As the ballet progresses towards its tragic end in act three, the ballet gets a bit bogged down by the plot's complexities and drags somewhat.

Nevertheless, ballet has seldom told such a story that is based in a palpable reality - no swans, fairies, dolls or toys come to life. There are superb roles for the principal dancers, character parts, and scenes for the corps de ballet combined with sumptuous sets and costumes. Cranko's Romeo and Juliet stands the test of time for its human approach to the narrative, for its colour and humour, and above all as a showcase for classical ballet at the highest level.


"One felt at any moment a number of the dancers could have stepped into the principal roles."

 

Ratings out of 5, based on Practitioner's Vision / Reviewer's Response: ***** = Transcendent / Rapturous;
**** = Crystal / Appreciative; *** = Transmitted / Thoughtful; ** = Vague / Unsatisfied; * = Uncommunicated / Mystified.