Romeo & Juliet – THE BALLET Part 2 - The Most Enduring Love Story

Performances and Artists

More than 30 film versions – in silence, in foreign languages, in classic to modern settings and dress…

Thousands of stage adaptations worldwide…

One of America’s greatest musicals created for stage and screen: West Side Story

And yes, in many dance disciplines including ballet…

Artists and art forms from every generation have been and continue to be inspired by William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet


I believe it has become the world’s most enduring love story because Shakespeare captured timeless characters thickly layered with dramatic incident, resonant themes and poetic feeling.

Shakespeare’s gift to artists is these themes – and they allow inspirational creativity and individual artistic license to occur.

As a choreographer, one of the greatest challenges I face when taking on the task of choreographing a story ballet is telling the story through the body with meaningful physical emotion, rather than meaningless gesture and choreographic excess.

When I choreographed this Romeo & Juliet in 1989, I chose the following themes that I found throughout the play that allowed me to explore and challenge myself…

• Romantic love and intense passion with love at first sight
• Social order and decorum
• Peace and tragedy
• Secrecy and ambiguity
• Defiance and revenge
• Life and, of course, death

The next step is gaining an understanding of each of these themes and then translating them from words into a physical language.

Then, without words, the dancers are asked to explore and execute verbal language through expressive movement. A complete emotional understanding of each character and how they relate to one another is needed in order to achieve this character development.

There is much trial and error, but when you find what works the results are very moving and resonate with the audience on a visceral level.

There are two words (the most powerful in the play) that allow every human to pause and microscopically ponder: LOVE and HATE.

Throughout the play, each character deals with these truths, yet the thread carried throughout is told through the eyes of the play’s youth and most innocent characters – Romeo & Juliet.

Luckily for choreographers, there was a composer who immersed himself in the words of Shakespeare and gave us, what I believe to be, the most brilliant ballet score ever composed.

Thank you Sergei Prokofiev.

Thanks for reading. Next: The relationship of the music to the ballet

Written by James Canfield, Nevada Ballet Theatre Artistic Director