Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ is technically impressive but not quite striking

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Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is one of the Bard’s earlier plays, a work that focuses on love, destiny and rivalry. These themes are emphasized through movement in Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s production of Romeo and Juliet, playing at the Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium.

The ballet features highly technical choreography by Rubi van Dantzig and grand music by Sergei Prokofiev. The play opens to peaceful day in Verona with citizens going about their day. A fight breaks out between the two powerful families of the city, the Montagues and the Capulets. Dancers move with quick movements while sword fighting. Feuds break out everywhere, with the more senior people of the village fighting with even larger swords, which comes off awkwardly.
The next scene has the audience meeting Juliet and her nurse, a source of comedy in the ballet. This scenes features some lovely movement from Amanda Green’s Juliet and also serves to illustrates the close relationship between Juliet and her nurse. Juliet is then introduced to Paris, who wants to marry her. At the ball, Juliet meets Romeo (danced by Liang Xing), and their duet work is quite beautiful. The dancing in the first half of the ballet is technically amazing, with only a couple moments where the dancers weren’t in unison, but the entire first half is not striking. Maybe because it has to introduce the tragic lovers and the love between them, maybe it’s because there isn’t very much action, but the narrative drags. The famous balcony scene isn’t distinguished from the other scenes through choreography. There is also a missed opportunity for character development of the humorous and charming Mercutio. He isn’t a big enough personality in this ballet presentation and therefore upon his death, the audience doesn’t feel his loss as acutely as they should. This is the turning point in Shakespeare’s play and the sealing of Romeo’s fate as it’s because of Mercutio’s murder that he kills Tybalt. This is alluded to in the ballet, but Mercutio isn’t distinct from Benvolio and therefore this scene isn’t as poignant.

The narrative of the ballet improves drastically in the second half as Lady and Lord Capulet insist upon Juliet’s marriage to Paris. Her frantic movements in her anguish are quite nice. The ballet illustrates quite clearly how Juliet tries to convince her parents that she doesn’t want to marry Paris and how the potion is her last resource and this emphasizes the tragedy of the story.

Toer van Schayk’s set design gains more variety as we move from Juliet’s room to the chapel and back again. The statue in the final scene is quite fitting, while the awkward cross that hangs in front of the chapel building looks out of place.

The Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s Romeo and Juliet is a technically impressive ballet that becomes quite engaging in the second half, but isn’t as striking as it could be.

Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s presentation of Romeo and Juliet runs until January 19th at the Southern Jubilee Auditorium. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster outlets, online at www.ticketmaster.ca or call toll-free 1-855-985-ARTS (2787).

Photo: Pictured – Amanda Green and Liang Xing
Credit: Rejean Brandt Photography

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