Company: Ballet Preljocaj
What: Romeo and Juliet
Where: Sadler's Wells
When: 3 October 2000
This started as a 10 minute piece, but has become fuller and taken a bit longer - but do forgive the spontaneity of such quick thoughts!
One of Europe's most fancied choreographers makes it to London for the first time in living memory blah blah. Preljocaj is the man that Ross Stretton (new Royal Ballet (RB) Artistic Director) kept mentioning in his list of new choreographers that were not doing anything with RB and should be blah blah.
R&J is set in a bleak totalitarian Eastern European country where the factions at war are the forces of 'law and order' and the less well to do in the country. The story is condensed down to 100 minutes, but most of it is there and recognisable, if amended somewhat.
Much of Prokofiev's music remains, augmented by bleak electronic soundscapes - they work well together and with the design
Much of the action takes place by a bleak Berlin wall with guards (and a dog!) up top patrolling. Parts are of our time but there is also a 1920's Fritz Lang 'Metropolis' feel and the costumes for the military are brutal leather affairs. Juliet dances in a crop top and the most unflattering pair of shorts I've ever seen! Jasper Conran would have a heart attack I'm sure.
Overall the design work, if some of the scene changes are a bit clunky.
Interesting and one can see why directors want his work. He follows in the Ek and Kylian mould with a choreography borne of reality and awkward (if real life) gesture - not too abstract and occasionally the arms become incredibly balletic. All in bare foot with the floor much used. The pas de deux I thought were particularly impressive with a fluency and freedom I associate with MacMillan and they were in a different and more engaging style to the rest of the dance, as if to emphasis their private world and love. I also enjoyed the choreography for the nurses (yes there were two) who are rather less sympathetic types and much more formal with mechanistic movement and the slap of authority about them.
I would definitely want to see more work by Preljocaj. And some later work too - this was originally created in 1990.
Not a large company but they all looked well able to take care of themselves and at no time did there appear to be too few of them for such a big story. They also looked comfortable with dramatic work and acted well. Sylvain Groud and Aurelie Lobin were excellent as Romeo and Juliet and clearly knew there pdd well - the programme talks of their being different versions and one supposes that each couple help shape 'their' show. In this case it all worked harmoniously and their togetherness moved me greatly.
The only thing I hated, and not down to the dancers I suspect, was the ending: normally the music ends as Juliet gasps her last. Well in this version the music ends and only then does Juliet decide to kill herself - it's all done in silence. She dies but it is still not the end and a guard does a a last nonchalant look down on the dead huddle below. While I'm sure there's a point to be made about the state not giving much of a damn about life and death, the entire end of the ballet suffers horribly without music and they really ought to tidy up the dramatics.
A new R&J very much worth seeing. No pointe shoes, which might not impress some, but this is quality stuff I think. Sadler's need to get the company back. Based on this I also think Preljocaj would do a fine piece for the Royal Ballet capitalising on their dramatic sense (and natural dance ability blah blah!).
At Sadler's Wells and playing through to Sat 7th October.