Romeo and Juliet Primer  
by Karen Kain
March 9, 2020MERW-2018-1-600.jpg

One of the highlights of my tenure as Artistic Director was commissioning Russian-born choreographer Alexei Ratmansky to create a new Romeo in Juliet in 2011. The enduring popularity of Romeo and Juliet owes in large part to the richness of Sergei Prokofiev’s score, one of few that can sit comfortably alongside those of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky as a masterwork for ballet. The music captures the emotional nuances of Shakespeare’s tragedy and makes extensive use of leitmotifs, or recurring phrases, to help define the different characters. It is a wonder to hear and sublime to dance.

I wanted a new Romeo and Juliet to suit the athletic, modern organization we had become. I had always admired the work of Alexei and I felt his aesthetic, with its classical foundation and openness to contemporary influences, would be an ideal fit. I first approached him about the project in 2007 and was thrilled when he said yes.

The world premiere of Alexei’s Romeo and Juliet took place on November 16, 2011 in our 60th anniversary season. It galvanized the company with fresh energy and optimism. The production is glorious, with sets and costumes reminiscent of Renaissance frescoes. Alexei added more dancing than we’d seen in Romeo and Juliet before, challenging the dancers with fast footwork, intricate partnering and soaring jumps. The characters are fully formed individuals whose inner lives and intentions inform their movements throughout.

I am so proud of what Alexei and the company have achieved with Romeo and Juliet, now a modern classic in our repertoire.



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