When I searched “Romeo and Juliet” on Netflix, I noticed several ballet versions and selected one with choreography by Rudolf Nureyev performed in Paris in 1995. To cut to the chase, I loved it. It’s spectacular. I watched it first on my regular TV and decided I was not doing it justice, so watched most of it again on the big screen behemoth in my basement. It is so lovely.
The title roles are performed by Manuel Legris and Monique Loudières and they are wonderful together. Loudières, although obviously not a teenager, dances with a sweet innocence that makes her Juliet believably girl-like. Legris is her charming Romeo. Lionel Delanoe does a great job as Mercutio—you see every ounce of wit and energy that Shakespeare puts into that character. The nurse is also quite amusing. She is a lusty version, quite a bit younger than what I’ve seen in films. Her costume is striking, with floating scarves tracing her every move.
I’m going to run out of superlatives quickly. Prokofiev’s score is beautiful. The costumes and sets are sumptuous. The dancing wonderful to watch. This video runs 2.5 hours, and unlike the lengthy BBC production, this one had my attention for the entire time.
Of course, it’s a dance. There’s no time to channel surf—the story is told through music and motion, and you have to stay tuned into it to keep up with the action. I wonder if the story would be very hard to follow for people unfamiliar with Romeo and Juliet.
I found it kept pretty true to Shakespeare’s storyline. There are some variations. The ballet begins with foreshadowing a funeral. The savvy Rosaline makes an appearance early in the ballet, and Romeo’s heavy-handed wooing of her gives a good indication of why she scorned his doting.
But other than that, I’d say the narrative follows Shakespeare pretty closely. Of course, everything is adapted to ballet. The violence is easier to watch, I think, since it’s quite stylized.
This makes me think it would be appropriate for children to watch. Obviously, language isn’t a barrier as it might be for kids in a regular version of Romeo and Juliet. My little ones were interested for a few minutes, but then had to move onto homework and other things. I think a mature child, especially one that likes dance, might really enjoy this.
I realize that Shakespeare’s poetic language is his biggest asset, but I believe this ballet shows how the poetry can be successfully translated to dance and music. I enjoyed this video immensely. So much, in fact, that I added a version of Nureyev himself dancing with Margot Fonteyn to my to-watch list. Stay tuned!
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