Boy meets girl classic

2011-06-03 15:50

The language of ballet is universal because there are no verbal cues. But this can also be the art form’s curse, leading the uninitiated to think it too complex to understand.

The South African Ballet Theatre’s production of Romeo and ­Juliet shatters this myth.

From the opening note of Sergei Prokofiev’s score, performed by the 28-musician Sinfonia, there’s no misreading this timeless tale of love, revenge, longing and loss.

Based on William Shakespeare’s classic tragedy of the same name, the company invokes the essence of the Bard’s story and the ­characters that people it.

From Romeo, Benvolio and ­Mercutio’s playful teasing in the first spectacular scene, the stage is set for a mesmerising night out, as their swordplay takes on an air of peril and the feud between the Montagues and the Capulets is reignited.

The magnificent sets and ­costumes hark back to an era when the coffers that funded the arts were full.

The towering sets comprising pillars, steps and ­balconies capture Renaissance ­Verona.

For each scene they move seamlessly to create another room or setting without the audience hearing a thud or scrape.

The richly detailed costumes in velvets and brocades, trimmed in gold, bronze and silver, add to the sumptuousness of the occasion, ­encouraging the audience to ­surrender to another time and place for the duration of the three-act ballet.

Though the illusion is complete, our biggest and most impoverished ballet company couldn’t afford to make these costumes so they have been brought out of storage for the season. And what a season it promises to be.

Principal dancer Burnise Silvius, who danced Juliet on opening night, captures the teenage lover’s ethereal quality and her ­uncertainty as a girl standing on the cusp of womanhood.

Her ­technical perfection is a given, but her ability to hold every gaze for every minute she’s on stage is a gift and she uses it well.

Juan Ledo, her Romeo on ­opening night, who is on loan from Argentina, captures the boy’s youthful carelessness, which ultimately leads to their tragic double suicide.

The pair’s pas de deux at the end of Act 1 is otherworldly as they fall in love in front of the ­audience’s eyes.

Their death scene is equally hypnotic and the final moment of Juliet leaving this ­mortal coil made the audience ­collectively hold its breath.

Mercutio and Tybalt, the two friends whose duel ultimately seals the star-crossed lovers’ fate, are danced by Hyun Kyung Cho and Iain McDonald, respectively.

Hyun is lithe and impish in his portrayal of the devil-may-care practical ­joker Mercutio.

McDonald exudes menace as the aggressive Tybalt and, as always, it’s almost impossible to tear your eyes away from his exquisite dancing.

The sword fight to the death is an exercise in precision, but both dancers make it look easy as they parry blows to and fro across the stage.

This ­perfectly choreographed fight is one of the many highlights of this piece of ballet theatre.

There aren’t many opportunities to surrender to something ­beautiful for its own sake, but Romeo and Juliet is one.

Old or young, man or woman, graceful or not, this is an event not to be missed.

Now shimmy into that ­little black dress or squeeze into your tux and make it a night out to remember in fair Verona, where a pair of star-crossed lovers dance the classic tale of young love.

» Romeo and Juliet runs at the Joburg Theatre in Braamfontein until June 19. To book 011 877 6898 or
0861 67  670

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