Romeo and Juliet is one of the most popular and most performed ballets in the world, with most of the major troupes having a version in their repertories. National Ballet of Canada has danced John Cranko’s production for some 40 years but, to celebrate the company’s 60th birthday in 2011, artistic director Karen Kain commissioned the renowned Russian choreographer Alexei Ratmansky to make a new Romeo.
Heather Ogden and Guillaume Cote in Romeo and Juliet by National Ballet Of Canada at Sadler's Wells, London Photo: Tristram Kenton
Ratmansky’s approach is fresh and contemporary, while remaining very much a traditional interpretation of the story. That is to say he’s made no experimental shifts in time or place, and there are no radical changes to the plot. Instead, he focuses on the central romance, with pretty dancing and a gentle romanticism that sweetly conveys Romeo and Juliet’s young love. This all suggests Ratmansky’s production might best suit a younger audience, who will also appreciate the conciliatory ending when the warring families are reconciled.
The opening night cast danced with flair, with Guillaume Cote’s Romeo the stand-out performance of the evening. Cote is both elegant and boyish, with a huge leap and grand lines. Heather Ogden’s Juliet was girlish and sweet, although occasionally her gestures were rushed, making her characterisation of Juliet less clear. Piotr Stancyzk was a puck-ish Mercutio, while Jiri Jelinek was a sly, athletic and ruthless Tybalt.
Not all the supporting cast were as strong, in particular Juliet’s mother (Alejandra Perez-Gomez) lacked expressive range. However, Richard Hudson’s lavish costumes and pared-back sets expertly conjured the time and place of northern Renaissance Italy.