Next week, Northern Ballet will be paying us their annual much-anticipated visit. This year, they will be performing a stunning version of Prokofiev’s Romeo And Juliet. We caught up with two of the dancer who perform those title roles, to find out more about the production.
Giuliano Contadini (Romeo)
Romeo And Juliet premièred in 2015 – what does it feel like returning to Romeo after a year away?
It feels really good, I really enjoyed it the first time and it’s really exciting to come back to it. Last year I felt like I was still finding Romeo, but this time he’s already there, so now it’s just about building on that to make the role even more my own. As an Italian, it’s always been a dream of mine to play Romeo. When you discover the world of ballet and all of the old classics, Romeo And Juliet is a very famous and important ballet – especially for us Italians. So this is definitely a dream come true.
This is a very stylish, minimalist production. Does this affect how you can tell the story?
Because the set and design is very minimalist, there’s more room to express the feelings and emotions in the choreography. I’m a very expressive person and very emotionally driven in my performances, and I always try to make sure the audience can really feel it, which is what this particular production is all about. For me it’s been very easy to adapt, because the emotions are very natural and real, and there’s lots of space to just dance.
Why do you think that the story of Romeo And Juliet has remained so popular for so long?I think everybody loves a tragedy. Happy endings are nice, but sometimes you just want to see a tragedy that really pulls on your heart strings so that you leave the theatre feeling really moved. Romeo And Juliet is just so powerful in that sense. For me as a ballet dancer that’s the most important thing. I want the audience to feel something, but I also need to feel something when I’m performing, otherwise the job’s not worth it. It’s not all about technique and executing the steps – it’s about living and feeling on stage, and that’s what I try to do every time.
Could you describe a typical day on tour?
We always start with a ballet class to get ready for rehearsals in the afternoon. Rehearsals can be up to three hours, and we could be rehearsing the same ballet we’re performing that day or a completely different ballet – it’s never too easy! You have to compartmentalise in your brain to be able to switch to a certain character and time period, and then in the evening be fully back in Verona as Romeo. We do so many productions a year that I’m used to it now – especially after being with Northern Ballet for 10 years.
Dreda Blow (Juliet)
Romeo And Juliet is such a classic – it’s one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays, has been adapted for the screen and stage, and is a well-established ballet. How does this version differ to other versions?
In this version of Romeo And Juliet, the story is completely told through the movement and the music. The set is very stark, very simple, quite contemporary looking, and there are not a lot of props which leaves more room for the dance to tell the story.
Juliet isn’t the young, naïve, sweet and gentle girl as we often imagine her character to be. She is more like a rebellious teenager – she’s feisty, she’s got guts, and she’s not a weak character at all. That was the challenge for me when we first performed Romeo And Juliet (in 2015) – to take all of the things I thought I knew about Juliet out of my head. She is still lovely and of course she really loves Romeo, all the romance is there, but it’s cheekier, it’s more playful, and she challenges him – she’s more of an equal. It’s not just him sweeping her off her feet!
What are you most looking forward to about returning to the role of Juliet?
I feel like now I understand the physicality of the role better, and I have more confidence in playing her. So I can play a little bit more with the rebelliousness and the feisty side of her character.
How does Prokofiev’s traditional score sit with the modern feel of the production?Prokofiev’s music is just the most incredible score, and it tells the entire story in itself. There’s just so much depth to that music that I think whether you’re dancing in a really classical way or a more contemporary way it doesn’t matter: it’s still Romeo And Juliet!
What would you say to people who have never seen ballet before but who might be interested in Romeo And Juliet?
I think whether you’ve seen lots of dance before or none at all, because it’s such a famous story and most people know the plot, you can just sit back and enjoy the characterisation, the musicality and the beautiful movement that Jean-Christophe has created – and hopefully enjoy the way that we perform Romeo And Juliet too.
Romeo And Juliet: Tuesday 20 to Saturday 24 September. Book here.