Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Romeo and Juliet

Romeo and Juliet, Peter Schaufuss Ballet, London Coliseum – reviewed on 13th July

Bolshoi superstars and real-life lovers Natalia Osipova and Ivan Vasiliev took on London last week with Denmark-based Peter Schauffuss Ballet. Performing the rarely seen Romeo and Juliet by Frederick Ashton, their neat Russian technique combined with abundant passion for each other in a memorable run of nine performances.

Many areas of the production were sadly lacking. The sparse modern set of cylindrical lights and odd background projections (most notably of an English-style rooftop for the balcony scene) were unable to match the intensity of the narrative. The corps de ballet of just eight dancers disappointingly did not create the feeling of crowds and warring families, but did at least complement Ashton’s choreographic focus on the lead couple rather than the rest of Shakespeare’s play.

It was Osipova’s exceptional acting ability and grace which saved this production. Arguably the best female dancer in the world today, she performed the tough choreography to perfection. Through each sequence of rapid jumps on pointe and lyrical bending of her upper body, she appeared elegant, charming and naively youthful. Juliet’s every emotion from rapture to despair was expressed in each tiny inch of her body and she alone carried the drama and emotion of the tragic story.

Vasiliev as Romeo was technically adept, but not able to convey the depth of passion required in such a role. Dances with Mercutio and Benvolio were delightful feats of virtuosity, with leaps and spins of impressive power and dynamism. Alban Lendorf, principal with the Royal Danish Ballet, in particular, showed remarkable strength and demonstrated the clearest character sentiment of the male dancers.

Prokoviev’s delicious score, although heavily cut, was played beautifully by the English National Ballet Orchestra under the baton of Graham Bond. This eagerly awaited Romeo and Juliet had its flaws, but nothing could take away from Osipova’s brilliance and the pleasure to be found in watching her dance.

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