It is hard for a British ballet audience raised on Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s Romeo and Juliet to watch a choreographic alternative and not be prejudiced. Leonid Lavarovsky’s production holds its ground at times, yet it is filled with distracting additional characters and clumsy transitional scenes. His production forces the star-crossed lovers to look out at the world and acknowledge its hostility towards them, while MacMillan creates an insular world for his couple with an intimate and shared movement vocabulary.
In Vladimir Shklyarov, we have the perfect Romeo. Effervescent with boyish enthusiasm, he bounds across the stage as though every moment not filled by frivolous leaps or spins is wasted. He’s a risky performer to watch - his head thrown back unnervingly with every landing - yet he is one who understands his talent well and is able to indulge in it.
In contrast, Alina Somova, as Juliet, appears like a young Bambi struggling to find her centre of gravity. With such long, coltish limbs, Prokofiev’s playful score must be testing, yet her difficulties do make you wonder whether, at 23, she is being pushed too fast. Her lack of emotional awareness is striking - every convulsion of tears appears airbrushed on to a confused canvas. Only after her refusal of Paris does she seem to understand, and for five minutes, we are offered a glimmer of the lovely ballerina Somova could become. Left alone on stage, we finally see a flurry of sentiment registering in her body. These precious five minutes tease with potential. Let us hope this is not quashed by premature opportunity.