Romeo & Juliet, the tragic tale of star-crossed lovers, is not only one of Shakespeare’s most beloved plays, it is also one of the greatest ballets ever written. Portraying a timeless love story solely through music and dance, whilst eschewing the words of the Great Bard, is certainly no small feat. However, this is exactly what the Russian composer Serge Prokofiev set out to accomplish.
Despite my initial skepticism, by the end of Act I, scene V, it became clear that the Russian master had succeeded. The moonlight scene, where Romeo meets Juliet at Capulet’s garden, captures the spirit of the Shakespearean work like no other artistic performance I have ever seen.
As the dance progresses, it is almost possible to hear the words of sonnet XVIII being recited. The pulsating, interlocking embrace of the doomed couple is a visceral declaration of love everlasting that can be universally understood without a single word being spoken.
Tango notwithstanding, I had never fully realized the power of dance to capture the most noble of human emotions or as Romeo might have said, “Did my heart love till now? Forswear it, sight! For I never saw true beauty till this night!”
Daria Klimentová rightly received a standing ovation for her portrayal of Juliet, but it was Vadim Muntagirov’s Romeo that eclipsed everyone else. In the end, although not nearly as beautiful and heart wrenching as Swan Lake, the English National’s Ballet rendition of Romeo & Juliet was certainly majestic in its own right.