Romeo & Juliet – THE BALLET Part 1 - A Brief History

Posted on Thursday, April 28, 2016

One of the greatest events in the world of dance occurred in 1956, when the Bolshoi Ballet appeared in the West for the very first time. Eagerly awaited and much discussed, their first performances in London (then later in New York) were electrically exciting – and ultimately very influential on the dance world out West.

One of the featured ballets brought on tour with the Bolshoi was Leonid Lavrovsky's Romeo & Juliet with the legendary Galina Ulanova in the role of Juliet. Though first danced by the Kirov Ballet in 1940, this ballet became a signature work for the Bolshoi from 1946 on. In Russia, Shakespeare is held in tremendous regard and Lavrovsky was inspired to faithfully maintain the spirit of the classic drama in dance.

Lavrovsky's Romeo & Juliet was the beginning of many versions using the Sergei Prokofiev score by Western choreographers including John Cranko, who in 1962, premiered it for his company in Germany, The Stuttgart Ballet; and in 1965, Sir Kenneth MacMillan unveiled his version for The Royal Ballet in London.

It's an understatement, but Romeo & Juliet has become one of the most important ballets to have as part of a ballet company's repertoire. I will share my thoughts and views with you on some of these reasons in part 2 of my blog.

As an aside...

During my career with the Joffrey Ballet, I had the privilege of performing the role of Romeo in John Cranko’s version of Romeo & Juliet. From the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. to Lincoln Center in New York City, to the War Memorial Opera House in San Francisco, to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles and many other prominent venues in major cities around the country, this experience and this ballet have been an integral part of my life as a dancer, director and choreographer. "James Canfield's Romeo is magnificently danced at every moment," wrote Anna Kisselgoff of The New York Times. "But he is also the production's most persuasive character. He gives us a Romeo all too ready for love, pursuing a fleeting Rosalind and literally immobilized by his first sight of Juliet."

Written by James Canfield, Nevada Ballet Theater Artistic Director

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