LAST EDITED ON 03-08-01 AT 03:35 PM (GMT)
Hong Kong was the final stop on the extensive two-month tour of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet from Canada. Last week this 61-year-old company brought the 1967 production of "Romeo and Juliet" by the well-known Dutch choreographer Rudi van Dantzig originally created for the Dutch National Ballet. Framed by the sombre sets designed by Toer van Schayk, whose costumes are fortunately more colourful, this production makes a strong theatrical impact.
This three-act ballet is dramatically cogent. Scenes succeed each other smoothly, and there are no longueurs which are occasionally felt in the more famous Royal Ballet production of "Romeo and Juliet" by MacMillan. However, van Dantzig's choreography for the several pas de deux at the heart of the ballet is less poetic than MacMillan's. Van Dantzig's innovations include a prologue, a large figure of death who appears in the market scene, as well as the ghostly apparitions of the dead Tybalt and Mercutio, which tie in with the choreographer's fascination with the darker aspects of this Shakespeare tragedy.
The opening night's audience was treated to a stellar cast. Juliet was danced by Evelyn Hart, one of Canada's most renowned ballerinas, now in her mid-forties. Though not in her strongest technical form nowadays with weak legwork, Hart is a sophisticated dance actress, and her dancing in the duets were stirring.
Hart was strongly partnered by guest artist Olivier Wevers, who is familiar to Hong Kong audiences after his appearance last summer with the Pacific Northwest Ballet from Seattle, his home company, in Balanchine's "A Midsummer Night's Dream". Wevers, tall and handsome, was a superb Romeo. He was on top form on this occasion; and his dancing was bright, clean and crisp. I like his naturalistic acting, full of charm and passion, which perfectly complements his fine classical style.
The Royal Winnipeg company gave respectable performances. The sword-fight scenes were enjoyable. I was particularly impressed by Reyneris Reyes as Mercutio, and Paul de Strooper as Paris. The same cast danced again on the closing night last Saturday.
(Parts of this article have appeared in the "South China Morning Post".)