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About the Change

Royal Ballet

‘Romeo and Juliet’

January 2010
London, Covent Garden

© Jeffery Taylor
Former dancer, Dance Critic and an Arts feature writer for the Sunday Express. Pub 17 01 2010

© John Ross

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“I’ve never seen anything like it,” was the excited theme of post performance comment as we streamed out into Covent Garden’s near freezing gloom last Thursday.

And for once bog standard theatrical lovey talk was nothing but unvarnished truth.

As one half of the eponymous duo in MacMillan’s Romeo & Juliet, Alina Cojocaru had just given the performance of her life. Yes, she has a world class technique, but they are ten a penny in the Royal Ballet today; her acting abilities are usually a little less than standard and her musicality on the self indulgent side, but something has happened to this Romanian refugee. Her Juliet was so much more than just the steps; there were no over the top clichés or agonised grimaces and she moved through the music as if orchestrated by Prokofiev. Something has been liberated, her stage presence is a force of nature all on its own. Movement, music and emotion are blended into a living portrait, a breathing, flesh and blood experience recognisable to us all.

MacMillan’s modern 1965 classic has the perfect opening for a thrilling night out at the theatre. Set to Prokofiev’s passionate and powerful score, the curtain rises on Georgiadis’s definitive evocation of medieval Verona, tiers of piazzas and cloisters, dimly lit, dangerous and mysterious. Slowly the crowds gather, Romeo (Johan Kobborg) appears and John B Read’s lighting brings the morning sun. The scene is invitingly set for the familiar telling of a story as old as man himself.


Alina Cojocaru and Johan Kobborg in Romeo and Juliet
© John Ross

The company looks good, disciplined, aware and caring. They perform MacMillan’s startlingly inventive steps with admirable conscientiousness, not least Kobborg, at 37 contemplating the end of his brilliant dancing life. His technical performance was impeccable, however, so consciously precise I hope a video of his efforts can be a subject of academic study on how to get it right. The in depth opulence of the Ballroom scene, including the famous cushion dance is a perfect and extravagant statement of a ruling class confident in its power while the heart stopping moment when the two fated lovers come face to face was just that. The great balcony duet is a survival course for Romeo and Kobborg’s pacing was perfect, Cojocaru’s awakening heart pure joy. Artistically she has come of age, filling the ballet’s central space with an irresistible blend of high artistry and full blooded humanity.

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