Photo © 2009 Lois Greenfield
For all of last month, the dancers of Miami City Ballet worked diligently with Stuttgart Ballet choreologist Jane Bourne on John Cranko’s Romeo and Juliet. Cranko’s take on the infamous love tragedy combines just the right servings of technique, pizazz, musicality, a bit of comedy and of course…DRAMA. As one of the more, ahhemm… shall we say, “experienced” dancers in the company, it has been an especially fun journey for me to revisit the emotional mindset of a fourteen year old girl. (Intersestingly enough, I am also learning Lady Capulet; Juliet’s mother. Switching from role to role, often in the same day, has been quite a trip!).
Luckily, my Romeo is none other than my husband Carlos….so at least the butterflies in my tummy are there for real, and rediscovering them in each rehearsal has been especially nice! It’s hard to imagine though, how I would have felt at fourteen if it were arranged by my parents that I be married to someone that I barely knew, and then discovered another; the love of my life, just hours later. When I was that young, I still blushed at just the thought of kissing a boy!
The nicest thing that I find in the Cranko version is that he keeps in mind that Juliet, especially, is young and really quite naive. She begins the ballet playing child-like tricks on her Nurse, then is so overwhelmed at attending her first “grown-up” ball that she can hardly concentrate on dancing with Paris, her suitor. Time starts moving almost in slow motion when Romeo finally approaches her, and when she notices that people are watching them, she shyly runs away. During the balcony pas de deux, she’s kissed for the first time… but instead of the usual, overly passionate kiss, the one found in this version is quite pure, tender and innocently ravishing. She is so ecstatic with rapture that she almost begins to giggle and faint out of sheer bewilderment!
I also appreciate that there is a distinct difference in feeling and maturity between the balcony and bedroom pas de deux, allowing for Juliet’s growth and evolution throughout the ballet. Though circumstances force her to mature incredibly by the end of the ballet, she really still is a young girl deep down, and Cranko keeps reminding us of this through her little tantrums, fits of despair, and constant urges to be held and comforted.
I am so looking forward to discovering more and more nuances; in the choreography, the score, and most of all in Juliet’s character. At first I was disappointed that we’d have to wait until March to perform it, but the more I think about it , the happier I am to have time to leisurely build a rapport with the ballet. I’ll have the opportunity to take all of the wonderful information that I’ve been given, and really digest and process it before getting out there in front of an audience. Having that time is a luxury that we dancers don’t always have, especially with MCB’s hectic schedule. It will surely be a refreshing change, and I hope that ultimately, it really will make a difference in the depth of the final product…the performances.
To see a sample of “Benesh Notation”, the “hieroglyphic”-like method of notating dance steps and choreography which is written and deciphered by choreologists, like Jane Bourne, to accurately teach ballets click on the following link : http://www.miamicityballet.org/blog/2010/08/27/the-art-of-choreology/