Moved to tears again
You can see Romeo and Juliet a hundred times and never get bored. The ballet – in the widely acclaimed version by Rudi van Dantzig – is one of the most realistic dance works, because it gets so close to human emotions. It starts already with Prokofiev’s music, which right from the start heralds the inevitable destiny. The continually threatening undertone leads to a shivering climax. Just try holding back your tears!
But Romeo and Juliet is more than just music alone. We should be thankful that Rudi van Dantzig did not stick to his guns when he initially turned down the request to make this ballet in 1967. As a choreographer, Van Dantzig made space for emotion in all his work, and this is certainly the case in ‘Romeo and Juliet’, where he bares the soul of the story.
Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet needs no further introduction, as over the centuries this love tragedy has inspired interpretations in many different art forms. But this does not detract from the fact that the performance is made by a correct interpretation of the characters, both physically and emotionally. And this is precisely the power of Van Dantzig’s Romeo and Juliet, with which the Dutch National Ballet is paying tribute to the choreographer, who passed away last year.
Igone de Jongh is the epitome of Juliet; young and innocent. She exudes carefreeness, just like Matthew Golding, who identifies with the poetic Romeo. The awakening love between the couple is reinforced by the ensemble, in which Roman Artyushkin is completely at ease in his portrayal of the hot-tempered Tybalt – Juliet’s cousin and Romeo’s enemy. Dancing opposite him is Isaac Hernandez as the mischievous Mercutio – Romeo’s best friend.
The presentiment of a bad ending is already tangible in the first act, although the dominant tone is still one of euphoria. But behind the cheerful street scenes, in which Nadia Yanowski gives an entertaining performance as a whore, the menace is lurking. And throughout the ballet it increasingly gains the upper hand, until it leads to an explosion of emotion as the highlight of the third act.
The ballet is characterised not just by drama, but also by the right balance between humour and tragedy. The refined jesting is provided mainly by Aina Bilkins, who is an expert at winning over the audience in her role as Juliet’s doting nurse.
Van Dantzig’s strong and extraordinarily expressive choreography and the company’s passionate performance of it ensure that the spectator does not follow the drama from a distance, but becomes part of the forbidden love between Romeo and Juliet. The intensity and credibility with which De Jongh and Golding convey their emotions make the audience catch their breath.
The release comes as the last note dies away – and not only for the audience, as De Jongh was also visibly moved when taking her curtain calls. (Naska van de Laar, Saturday 16 March 2013)
Prokofiev makes up for a lot in ‘Romeo and Juliet’
(three out of five stars)
Right from the very first scene of the Dutch National Ballet’s Romeo and Juliet, you could imagine you were in a painting by Breugel. Something is happening in every corner of the stage (designs by Toer van Schayk): two whores ending their night’s work, little children getting into mischief, Juliet (Igone de Jongh) passing by in a litter, and her cousin Tybalt (Roman Artyushkin) showing off, just like his arch enemy Mercutio (Isaac Hernández). And Romeo (Matthew Golding)? He is by the well, musing on True Love.
This overcrowded stage setting turns out to be the biggest snag, as it is easy for the audience to lose track of the overall picture. Even in the crucial ball scene, where Romeo and Juliet look into each other’s eyes for the first time, thus sealing their fate, you often have to search actively for the protagonists (clue: Romeo is behind a pillar).
Of course it would have been difficult for any full-length ballet to follow Christopher Wheeldon’s fresh and energetic Cinderella, which had its world premiere last December. But after such a spectacular work, the revival of Rudi van Dantzig’s Romeo and Juliet (1967, revised in 1991) feels very tame and long-winded.
It doesn’t help that there is little dancing. There is plenty of running though – Juliet’s nurse waddles at a continual trot. But it is Juliet who covers the most metres, in the scene where she decides to take the sleeping draught to make her appear dead. She runs from the bed to the altar, turns to the door, goes through the window to the altar, and ends up – via a detour past the door and the curtain – at the bed again.
This moment is prevented from becoming ridiculous by the wonderful acting of Igone de Jongh, who possibly gave the performance of her career as Juliet. She is as light as a feather in her love for Romeo in the balcony scene, which is a nice danced variation of ‘You hang up first’ – ‘No, you’.
But the star of the evening remains the spectacular music of Sergei Prokofiev, performed live by Holland Symfonia, with its undertone of impending doom at the first encounter and the musical sledgehammer blow of the Dance of the Knights (probably still familiar to some from the old perfume advert).
If you should occasionally lose your way in all the visual excess, Prokofiev will get you back on track again. (Bregtje Schudel, 15 March)
Poignant dance drama
(4 out of 5 stars)
Over a year after the death of Rudi van Dantzig, the Dutch National Ballet is once again presenting his version of Romeo and Juliet from 1967. In the wonderful sets and costumes designed by Toer van Schayk, fifteenth-century Verona comes to life once more. The work is outstanding for its dramatic power of expression and moving human approach to the love tragedy.
Matthew Golding made his debut as the young lover from a hated family. He is a remarkably masculine and muscular Romeo, with so much youthful vigour and dance virtuosity that his interpretation is totally convincing. Igone de Jongh has matured in the role of Juliet over the years. In 2007, she already touched people’s hearts with her depth of expression. And now she does so again. Together they form a beautiful and charismatic couple.
In the many smaller roles, Isaac Hernández (Mercutio), the most talented of the younger generation, stood out for his high jumps, eager enthusiasm and fluent technique. Roman Artyushkin played one of his star roles again as Juliet’s arrogant cousin Tybalt. But the whole company is on form in three hours of dance drama of the highest level.
Holland Symfonia, conducted by Koen Kessels, made a vital contribution to the performance. The orchestra played Prokofiev’s music on a knife edge, so that listening and seeing were powerfully linked in this evergreen production. (Eddie Vetter, Monday 18 March 2013)
Overwhelming debut couple
four stars out of five
It is one year since the death of Rudi van Dantzig, former artistic director of the Dutch National Ballet and creator of the first full-length Dutch ballet, Romeo and Juliet, in 1967, set to music by Sergei Prokofiev.
At the first revival after Van Dantzig’s death, his hand is poignantly discernible in the staging details. But life goes on, and so there are several debut roles, alongside all the familiar images (in Toer van Schayk’s unrivalled designs).
The company has gained a technically overwhelmingly beautiful couple in Remi Wörtmeyer and Jurgita Dronina, who also give a heartrendingly beautiful interpretation of the drama of Shakespeare’s ‘star-crossed lovers’. They are both finely built dancers with a flawless style that lends remarkable freshness to their characters. Like jubilant larks, they circle one another with swallow dives, and Juliet’s teenage giggles are practically audible in Dronina’s pattering feet. Every emotion is clearly discernible, from Wörtmeyer’s near faint after a kiss to Juliet’s inconsolable and – judging by the rustle of handkerchiefs in the auditorium – apparently infectious crying fits. And just for the record – this was their debut!
The other newcomers can still grow in their roles a little more. Matthew Golding makes a fine Romeo for the wonderfully matured Igone de Jongh, but he seems better suited to the more virtuoso repertoire. Maia Makhateli and Artur Shesterikov are rather sparing with the emotions, and then it becomes even more apparent how relatively restricted Van Dantzig’s choreography is. His staging is built around a strong emotional interpretation, and of course around the lively crowd scenes, which are a speciality of the choreographer. In those scenes, Isaac Hernandez stands out in his debut in the supporting role of Mercutio, portraying him with enjoyment and roguishness. And Rink Sliphorst is a deliciously unpleasant Tybalt.
Romeo and Juliet is good for many more years to come.
(Francine van der Wiel, 2 April 2013)
Romeo and Juliet offers an escape from reality
(three out of five stars)
The first full-length Dutch ballet was Romeo and Juliet, created by Rudi van Dantzig in 1967. The Dutch National Ballet is now presenting a revival of the work. Romeo and Juliet is worth a visit for those who enjoy visual extravagance and compelling drama.
The three-act ballet to music by Sergei Prokofiev is an almost exact adaptation of Shakespeare’s plot. Van Dantzig’s dramatic choices focus mainly on showing how the citizens of Verona suffer from the ongoing argument between the aristocratic houses of the Capulets and the Montagues. We see extensive festivities, a procession, water bearers trying to seduce Romeo, little children caught up in the festive hubbub and drunken beggars. All of this underlines the fact that the world where the action takes place is larger than the elite bubble in which the families of the two protagonists live.
But what it also does occasionally is distract attention from the main events. The incredibly tragic scene where Romeo accidentally kills Tybalt, which leads to his banishment from Verona, is disrupted by the crowds of people frantically running to and fro. While the ballet already opened with an extensive street scene, this is all done again to excess in the second act with the celebration of a holy day. Because all this activity threatens to bring the plot to a halt, it suddenly becomes annoying when the temps levés are not performed in unison.
But where the storyline and the performance do come together brilliantly is in the famous bal masqué, which Romeo attends with his friends in disguise, and where he and Juliet fall in love. The deep, dark notes of the Dance of the Knights recur in different variations later in Prokofiev’s composition, including in the death scene of the two lovers. This gives a wonderful dramatic effect, as well as ensuring consistency within the piece.
Van Dantzig chose to portray Juliet and Romeo (danced by Igone de Jongh and Matthew Golding, who are not only star dancers but also strong actors) as adolescents who are barely past the age of innocence. This is already shown in the playful duets between Juliet and her nurse, but it becomes fully apparent how immature the protagonists and their friends are at the bal masqué. The boys make a boisterous impression with their entrelacés and low, sharp legs, and the girls are entrancing with their high tempo grand jetés. Mercutio and Tybalt shine in their distraction of Paris (Juliet’s intended husband) with a goblet, giving Romeo a chance to dance with Juliet.
But here, too, the quieter moments are the most beautiful. Because when the two protagonists eventually find one another in this maelstrom of wonderfully costumed people and countless mini scenes of encounters and court dances, you are better off without the rest of the ball. The secretive pas de deux then danced by De Jongh and Golding gives you goose bumps. It is nice, too, that whereas in Shakespeare’s text (”Tis but thy name that is my enemy’) Romeo’s identity is revealed in the balcony scene, in this version of the ballet Romeo reveals himself at the ball by taking off his mask with a dramatic gesture.
Romeo and Juliet offers a nice escape from reality. Tugs-of-war between lovers look good when they are performed by fantastic dancers. But those looking for dance that has something to say about the world we live in are advised to look elsewhere. (Boukje Crossen, (15 March 2013)
Dutch National Ballet dances ‘Romeo and Juliet’
Romeo and Juliet, the age-old love story by William Shakespeare. A forbidden love so strong that at the thought of having to live without one another, Romeo and Juliet both kill themselves. The Dutch National Ballet transports audiences in this classic tale.
Igone de Jongh comes on as the innocent Juliet Capulet. She floats light as a feather over the stage. Then suddenly she sees the handsome Romeo Montague, Matthew Golding, and falls in love. Golding dances the role of Romeo with verve, portraying Romeo’s strong character with powerful and controlled movements. Together, the two principals form a wonderful couple, dancing as a unity in all the duets, including the sweet duet when Romeo and Juliet have just met and the powerful ones later on when they can no longer do without each other. These stars of the Dutch National Ballet deliver quality and a wonderful evening.
There is another nice role for Aina Bilkins, who rushes around the stage chaotically and full of drama, helping Juliet as her nurse. Soloists Isaac Hernández and Edo Wijnen dance the tough friends of Romeo: Mercutio and Benvolio. They fight alongside Romeo against the Capulet family. These fight scenes are well choreographed by Toer van Schayk and are performed magnificently by the male soloists.
Besides the fantastic soloists, Romeo and Juliet has everything you could expect of a classical ballet. Impressive scenery, designed by Toer van Schayk. A big corps de ballet, this time augmented by pupils of the National Ballet Academy, who obviously relish the dancing. And the evening is made complete by the beautiful musical composition by Sergei Prokofiev, performed by the Holland Symfonia orchestra. This version of Romeo and Juliet by choreographer Rudi van Dantzig is a success, and once again the Dutch National Ballet does credit to his name. (Betty Keeman, 16 March 2013)