Ballet News Reviews | The National Ballet of Canada’s Romeo & Juliet
Romeo & Juliet
The National Ballet of Canada
Sadlers Wells, London
17th April 2013
26 years is a long time to wait. The National Ballet of Canada eventually returned to London last night and the most important thing to say is that it was worth the wait. Celebrating the company’s 60th Anniversary and planned with touring in mind, Alexei Ratmansky’s new production of Romeo & Juliet landed in London with quite a buzz attached. The theatre was full, the audience lively (too much so for my seat neighbour).
The dancers have been challenged physically and also by the strong musicality of this piece. Everyone knows the music of Romeo even if it’s only through The Apprentice, and there needs to be dancing to match. There are 64 dancers in the company plus 10 apprentices and, costume mishaps aside (the dresses are BIG and the scenes change often), they gave their all; no sign of any lingering jet lag here. It’s brave programming on two fronts : first to tour with only one production and second because London audiences get to see Romeo & Juliet pretty often as it is.
Intention to Entertain
Juliet may be at the top of every ballet dancer’s wish list but she won’t make the slightest impact without great men. And my goodness, the men! Guillaume Côté’s Romeo, Piotr Stanczyk’s brilliantly timed but ultimately unfortunate Mercutio, Jiri Jelinek’s perfectly menacing Tybalt, Robert Steven’s Benvolio : all were on fire; strong & powerful. Foot perfect, acting full-out and with intention to entertain they were a force to be reckoned with. Ratmansky’s choreography works for each of them though there isn’t enough to evoke the historic rivalry between the two families.
Enter Heather Ogden’s Juliet. Married in real life, she and Côté have a symbiosis borne of knowing each other to the point of being able to anticipate every move, and this works to their advantage on stage. Each softly placed and perfectly timed foot (no noisy pointe shoes for this ballet company), each caress, each whirl of emotion or jagged wrench of despair – every emotion rang true. Côté has astonishing control, one minute effortlessly lifting Ogden and the next darting into a solo pitted against gravity itself. Long, elegant lines as solid as granite and jumps as light as a sponge, he has it all. I can only imagine how truly dangerous he’d be, let loose with Manon and Mayerling.
Does it have the visceral punch of Kenneth MacMillan ? Not quite, but the company is smaller, the sets are sparse and a bit flat, there is too much red and the stage is vast and often covered with dancers furiously beating out the steps. That’s not to say that they didn’t dance it beautifully, because they did, but the harlots could use a few lessons from The Royal Ballet’s Laura Morera, the fight scenes could be a little less balletic and altogether fiercer and the deaths need more time otherwise the impact is lost (Juliet took only seconds to stab herself) and the overall feel could be much less jokey. This is a tragedy, after all.
In Ratmansky’s production there is a brief diversion from the story, when Romeo sees Juliet wake from her potion-enduced sleep, before he dies, having believed her dead and taken a potion himself, which is both tender and shocking. His face is covered in horror, hers with absolute joy. But you do wonder why he didn’t rush to do something about the effects of the poison rather than dance with her, and this is a story already heavily labelled with what if’s ? Alejandra Perez-Gomez was very well cast as Lady Capulet, giving full rein to her emotions when allowed. Lord Capulet had his moments too; Etienne Lavigne in brutal command.
This is a company on their best form, with a production filled with inventive and challenging choreography danced full-out. The Principal casting brought it all together and I recommend you catch a show if you can.
Romeo & Juliet is in rep until 21st April.