On Thursday 30th March, the Royal Ballet presented Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s production of “Romeo and Juliet” as part of their current season. On this occasion, the roles of the doomed lovers were danced by Alina Cojocaru and Johan Kobborg.
Not having seen the ballet for a couple of years, I was really looking forward to the performance. The company as a whole looked ill at ease especially during the first act. I got the impression that the tempos were much slower than usual. This gave the dancing a heaviness that replaced the liveliness that is usually associated with the market scenes and parts of the ballroom.
Alina Cojocaru was a lovely Juliet, but not a very dramatic one. Her interpretation will have many supporters who can claim that, after all, Juliet was a very young girl in Shakespeare’s play. However, the ballet was created for Lynn Seymour and the choreography calls for some maturity, especially once the tragedy starts to unfold. Cojocaru progressed from her radiant happiness to her heartbreaking tragedy without a transition and that makes her interpretation a bit shallow. The dancing was brilliant, though. She sails through the steps with confidence, but unfortunately Juliet is more than that.
Kobborg was a convincing Romeo, though he obviously had to respond to Cojocaru’s Juliet and thus was somehow limited in the scope of his interpretation. His dancing was good and, as usual, he brought a lot of dramatic weight and presence to his role.
More worrying were the performances of nearly all the supporting roles that form such an integral part of the ballet. The harlots became mere decorative figures in the market scenes and, with the exception of Laura Morera, neither Francesca Filpi or Samantha Raine managed to get any characterisation into them.
Sadly, the role of Benvolio, danced by Yohei Sasaki, dissolved into meaningless steps with not much weight or purpose being given to them. This is a shame, as it broke the balance of the male trio and took away dramatic input, especially in the moment when Lady Capulet mourns the death of Tybald and he is supposed to guide Romeo out of the scene and act as an intercessor in the conflict.
José Martín’s Mercutio also needs more dramatic definition. Martín danced correctly and tried to act out some of the jovial nature of the role, but he did not manage to carry this through successfully.
To summarise, it was wonderful to see Sandra Conley and Genesia Rosato giving the necessary musical nuances, dramatic expressiveness and stage presence to their roles. Rosato as Lady Capulet was a wonderful example of what a dramatic dancer can add to key moments in the ballet.
MacMillan’s “Romeo and Juliet” was created at a time when the Royal Ballet was renowned for its dance-actors. For many years, those character dancers continued inhabiting those roles that the choreographer had created and there was a balance in the ballet between the dance and the drama. At the moment, without dancers who have the weight to give their roles some sort of dramatic purpose, the ballet is sadly unbalanced.