You can’t quite go anywhere in Toronto these days without seeing posters and flyers for the National Ballet of Canada’s revamped Romeo and Juliet, performances of which just ended Sunday night. This advertising campaign even showed up in most online search pages and was a clear sign of the tour de force that is Artistic Director Karen Kain!
The extensive marketing campaign for this production was truly worthy of a phenomenal fresh take on a ballet classic and just another example of a Renaissance to Art and Culture in Toronto. To celebrate the National Ballet of Canada’s 60th birthday, Kain approached acclaimed Russian-born choreographer Alexei Ratmansky to reboot the production with completely new choreography to Sergei Prokofiev’s beloved score for a World premiere in Toronto. This creative and exciting idea of Kain’s is just one more in a long line of very exciting and trailblazing moves on the part of the National Ballet of Canada.
In retrospect, it’s surprising no one had thought to revamp this classic before. The story is of course based on Shakespeare’s renowned tale of star-crossed lovers set in Renaissance Italy where they choose love above all and ultimately pay the price with their lives.
The most famous production of Romeo and Juliet was created by John Cranko for Stuttgart Ballet in 1962 and was danced by the National Ballet of Canada from 1964 to 2009. The steps, sequencing and style of Cranko’s version was much more traditional and rooted to an Old World. For purists, truly that version cannot be beat.
The National Ballet of Canada, however, is slowly but surely getting a reputation of a bold, initiative-taking corps. Prokofiev’s 1935 score was ahead of its time and works very well in this reboot where Ratmansky complements it with intricate, intense modern steps that tell the story in colloquial, inclusive way.
Ratmansky’s take is much faster paced and perhaps some may say less passionate, or more accurately less melodramatic. It also is incredibly inclusive with lots of dancing for the entire company and opportunities for some memorable sequences from the corps de ballet and a dazzling, dramatic solo from the Romeo’s best friend Mercutio, a secondary character. The choreography at such moments has a spontaneous, free-flowing feel to it. Even Juliet’s Nurse is a delightful character part that brings humour and charm to the story and stage.
The main highlights of this recent production, as they should be, are the pas de deux between our hero and heroine. Heartfelt, emotional and above all passionate, these romantic sequences drove the ballet and underscored the intensity of young love.
Every night the principal dancers changed, as is the principle at the National Ballet of Canada. The choreography was the true tour de force here, however, ensuring that regardless of the night a guest attended, there was a feast for his or her eyes and a love story for his or her heart.
Next up for the National Ballet of Canada is The Nutcraker, which will run from December 10, 2011 to January 3, 2012. Check out the trailer here. The full list of The National Ballet of Canada’s 2011-2012 season.