Romeo and Juliet was Kenneth MacMillan's first full-evening ballet, and, from its premiere in 1965, has been one of The Royal Ballet's signature works, popular all over the world. At the beginning of the ballet MacMillan's crowd scenes teem with life and color.
It's a pleasure to be able to follow the characters created by members of the corps de ballet as they portray the townspeople, market traders and servants of the rival Montagues and Capulets. However, once Romeo and Juliet meet, everything else on stage can only be scenery for their story.
Three great pas de deux: the meeting in the ballroom, the balcony scene and the morning after the wedding, eloquently convey the narrative: adolescent shyness and fascination; the headlong rush of love declared, and the grief of parting. The final scene in the tomb, a pas de deux with a lifeless partner, is devastating.
The Royal Ballet has performed Romeo and Juliet well over 400 times, yet each performance is subtly different.
Every pairing in the title roles brings fresh nuances to the young lovers' characters, while the wealth of supporting roles, from the exuberant trio of harlots in the town square to the murderous rage of Tybalt, offers scope for dancers throughout the Company.
Nicholas Georgiadis's earthy Renaissance designs, with some of the original details recently restored, are the perfect backdrop.