A Tale of Two “Juliets”

The evolution of the Miami City Ballet into the world-class company on display in its current season-ending production of Romeo & Juliet (left) has been wondrous to behold for local dance fans who have witnessed the troupe’s artistic growth first-hand since its beginnings 25 years (!) ago. It also reminds that there are certain ballets, and Romeo & Juliet is one of them, where you must clear your mind of things come before as you approach any new performance.

For many balletomanes, Margot Fonteyn and Rudolph Nureyev (below) are unmatched in the title roles, familiar to most from the 1966 film with England’s Royal Ballet. (Much later, Italian ballerina assoluta Alessandra Ferri and partners including Julio Bocca.) But not to digress into a discussion of dancers too much; MCB’s choice of the John Cranko choreography for the story of the doomed Shakespearean lovers is an interesting one.

Being far more familiar with the Kenneth MacMillan version, I was struck by some differences between the two, especially in the key moments of the “balcony” pas de deux and the finale. Fonteyn’s joyful run down the steps for her encounter with Romeo in the balcony scene is not easily erased from memory; there’s no staircase in the Cranko rendition, however, as his choreography has Romeo bringing Juliet gently down from the loggia above.

Likewise, Cranko’s interpretation of the final act in the burial crypt is minimalistically subdued compared to the hammier MacMillan counterpart (but as far as dramatic impact, MacMillan has the edge). Romeo’s choice of suicide (dagger or poison?) also varies; the former in Cranko, the latter in MacMillan. The one constant: a glorious Prokofiev score.

Anyway, what’s wonderful, as in anything related to the arts, is discovery and fresh analysis just when you think you’ve got something covered.

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