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After two covid delays, Johan Kobborg's Romeo and Juliet finally took place tonight. The ballet is classically based but with some fresh updated touches and completely different from McMillan’s version. It lasted about 80 minutes with no interval. The opening was the same as the closing scene – Romeo and Juliet lying dead on a bier. This brought to mind classic Greek tragedy where the end of the story is inevitable and all events lead to the final calamity. Once the bier was removed (with a bit of creaking and pushing) Polunin swaggered onto the stage, resplendent in white tights and looking very handsome. Kobborg had provided showcase choreography to make Polunin immediately stride right to the front of the stage and dazzle with his trademark huge leaps and rapid spins of the kind that his audience seem to expect. He also included a cheeky mime about Romeo’s flirtatious habits with the girls! The scenery was a massive, many-staired structure that appeared to be made of grey concrete. This was manipulated to give different views for each scene – eg tall archways for the Capulet ball, a vertiginous staircase leading to a platform to serve as Juliet’s balcony. It seemed to be a dramatic and effective combination of the brutalist architecture of Denys Lasdun and the impossible staircases drawn by Maurits Escher. When Alina Cojocaru appeared she was the epitome of a pretty, spirited teenage girl. Her dancing, as always, was exquisite and her acting was such that by the end, when she awoke from the sleeping potion full of the joy of anticipation of being with her Romeo, and then had that joy crushed by the discovery of his body, it was absolutely heartrending. I noticed grown men around me weeping. The overall feel of the piece was somewhat timeless – the costumes attractive but anonymous; it is after all a tale that could be repeated to some degree in any time and country. Apart from the principals, there was great dancing from Daichi Ikarashi as Mercutio and Nikolas Gaifullin as Tybalt. Some very promising young dancers have been hand-picked by Polunin Ink to give them the opportunity they might not have in a traditional company, and at the same time to utilise their special talents. It was lovely to see Alina bring her Johan on to the stage to receive some of the rapturous applause. I fondly remembered enjoying seeing them dance together many years ago when they were both in the Royal Ballet – beautiful dancers individually but utterly enthralling when they were together on stage. But I digress. Tonight was a different experience, merging the old with the new. The (sold-out) audience were not typical of those at the Royal Opera House – they were mostly a lot younger, and extremely enthusiastic as the lengthy standing ovation showed. I believe it is Kobborg’s aim to keep ballet alive and also to keep it fresh, and in this he has succeeded. I enjoyed the evening very much and found it a distilled and different version of Romeo and Juliet which is both spectacular and moving. https://maryrosedouglasuk.wixsite.com/ballet
I haven’t started a new thread before so please bear with me. Dance Europe subscribers will see an interesting interview in the July edition with Johan Kobborg (he is always interesting!) on the new Romeo and Juliet he is choreographing for Sergei Polunin and Alina Cojocaru in the main roles for Poluninink company. The premiere will be in the Arena Di Verona on Monday 26th August and it will be classical ballet (women en pointe, men in tights) we are told, with a modern take. Intriguing. There are frequent updates via twitter/instagram, from Johan mostly, including names of the others in the 24 strong cast including Valentino Zucchetti as Mercutio, Nikolas Gaifullin (principal at Atlanta Ballet) as Tybalt, and Ross Freddie Ray McCaw (role not yet known). I’m really looking forward to this unique potentially once in a lifetime event.