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22.11.2017

Ratmansky is expected everywhere to choreograph a new ballet or to stage the production, which had already got the glory. Before the premiere at the Bolshoi Ratmansky’s Romeo and Juliet was performed only at the National Ballet of Canada, which commissioned this production by the choreographer. And six years after the world premiere, the company continues to consider it the signature production and one of its greatest conquests. This production was repeatedly revived and was on tour in London. Canadian ballet media uphold the reputation of this production.

Here, for example, you can read a review on this ballet by a Canadian ballet critic Maria Shabas (The Globe and Mail, Toronto, 27.11.2015).

"On my way into Toronto's Four Seasons Centre on Wednesday night, where the National Ballet is remounting their stunning 2011 version of the work, I ran into an older balletomane. "Another Romeo and Juliet closer to death," he said with a wink. It's a sentiment we can all share in – R&J has been staged, danced, sung, filmed, reinterpreted, re-imagined in thousands of both likely and unlikely iterations. What more do we want out of this 400-year-old tale of lust, warring families, and suicides for him and her?

I have two answers to this question. The first is Alexei Ratmansky. A MacArthur Fellow (a.k.a. the "Genius Grant") who was formerly head of the Bolshoi Ballet and is now artist-in-residence at the American Ballet Theatre, Ratmansky understands ballet in a way that feels both elemental and intricate. One of my ongoing grievances with remounting story ballets is it forces audiences to put up with dated pantomime – the constant juxtaposition of silent, melodramatic acting and choreography. By shunning straightforward verisimilitude, Ratmansky seems set on rectifying this. He knows what Prokofiev's score can express about the highs (and lows) of love; better yet, he knows how to let this come to life fully and provocatively inside the body.I have two answers to this question. The first is Alexei Ratmansky. A MacArthur Fellow (a.k.a. the "Genius Grant") who was formerly head of the Bolshoi Ballet and is now artist-in-residence at the American Ballet Theatre, Ratmansky understands ballet in a way that feels both elemental and intricate. One of my ongoing grievances with remounting story ballets is it forces audiences to put up with dated pantomime – the constant juxtaposition of silent, melodramatic acting and choreography. By shunning straightforward verisimilitude, Ratmansky seems set on rectifying this. He knows what Prokofiev's score can express about the highs (and lows) of love; better yet, he knows how to let this come to life fully and provocatively inside the body.

Instead of having town scenes in which Capulets and Montagues act out their hostility, Ratmansky conjures the fiery, antagonistic mood of Verona by having his dancers dance. Configurations of couples, the women sliding into stylish, precarious side bends, move across the stage in downward diagonals. Then, a repeated movement acts as a playful challenge between camps. The dancers stomp their turned-in feet in quick succession, followed by a syncopated unfurling of both arms. It has a modern-dance feeling (a little Jose Limon) and conveys the defensive/irreverent undercurrent of a community accustomed to violence.

Then, there's Ratmansky's beautiful evocation of love at first sight. Instead of having Romeo and Juliet frozen, centre stage, staring at each other, he has Romeo reappear in front of Juliet at different positions on stage. Both the figurative and the literal are at play in this choice: Is Romeo following Juliet around the room, or this is an externalization of what it feels like when you can't stop staring? Sweeping, complex ensemble work creates the effect of time passing and, sometimes, of moving across distances. My favourite example is the Act 3 sequence that depicts Romeo's banishment to Mantua. Juliet appears to him as a tremulous ghost in white, but then this ghost becomes real, and Juliet is suddenly in Verona, pursuing her own desperate journey to Friar Laurence. When she arrives, there's no pantomime or gesturing to stand in for conversation; the Friar simply lifts Juliet high above his head, her body suspended in a perfect crescent. It's a stunning request for help, an act of total supplication. This is ballet's strength, its ability to distill narrative and emotion through shape and movement, to let the real and oneiric overlap.

Richard Hudson's earthy, colourful set and costume designs work in perfect concert with Ratmansky's textured choreography. Hudson gives us huge, minimalist shapes – an austere citadel, a vault with giant arches – then offsets them with detailed costumes – embroidered roundlets, velveteen caps and tunics in ochre, burgundy and navy. The Capulet ball, with its arched gallery and rich brocades, is like being airlifted into the early renaissance. Since Ratmansky's ensemble scenes incorporate so much disparate but simultaneous detail, the effect is like a Bruegel painting come to life. Everywhere you look, you see tiny, quotidian drama.

But, for me, the best parts of Ratmansky's ballet are the slippery pas de deux between the young lovers. He makes use of the whole body, of all levels, of deep relinquishing back bends and mellifluous petit adagio.
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All this leads me to that second thing we still want, in 2015, from Romeo and Juliet. The answer is Elena Lobsanova". (performer in the part of Juliet – BT).

In 1998, when the future celebrated choreographer performed his first production at the Mariinsky Theatre, the future famous ballet critic and writer Yulia Yakovleva concluded her review in the newspaper ‘Kultura’ with the following passage, "Well, the Mariinsky finally got the premiere, which satisfied everyone. And instead of the hilarious phrases about the place of Ratmansky's ballets in the history, the final of this article calls for self-evident incoherent parting words, " Please, come back as fast as you can.... We'll be waiting for you ".

Almost twenty years have passed. Ratmansky's ballets have been performed all over the world. Any ballet company is aspired to invite him and once having worked with him seems to be waiting for a new meeting almost at the very moment of farewell. The Bolshoi Ballet is no exception, especially since it was linked with Alexei Ratmansky for several years of continuous teamwork.

Our number-one answer is also Ratmansky. Number-two is our wonderful ballerinas – Juliets – Ekaterina Krysanova, Anastasia Stashkevich, Evgenia Obraztsova. Let’s extend this answer with our magnificent Romeos - Vladislav Lantratov, Vyacheslav Lopatin, Artemy Belyakov.

Follow the link to view a complete cast.

Romeo and Juliet is onstage November 22 – 26, 2017.

 

 
General sponsor of the Bolshoi Theatre is Credit Suisse bank
General partner of the Bolshoi Theatre is investment group Absolute
Privileged partner of the Bolshoi Theatre is GUM