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In the history of dance, there are only a handful of productions that translate Shakespeare’s story of tragic love into compelling ballet form.
John Cranko’s majestic version is one of them. His Romeo and Juliet premiered in 1962, the year The Australian Ballet was founded, and generations of our dancers have grown up with the production and gone on to shine in its many dream roles.
An artist who effortlessly fused dance and drama, Cranko richly evokes the grandeur of the Capulets’ ball, the fierce clashes of the rival families and the brief, luminous flare of young love. His choreography seems to flow spontaneously out of Sergei Prokofiev’s score, which has proven itself as immortal as Shakespeare’s play. As clearly as words could, the music lays out the progress of the story, evoking swordplay, ecstasy, murder and the looming approach of the lovers’ fate.
Jürgen Rose’s dramatically resonant design captures the pageantry of medieval Verona, contrasting the heavy splendour of the aristocratic elder generation with the billowing fabrics of the young lovers’ carefree abandon.
Cranko’s Romeo and Juliet binds artists and audiences in a profound emotional experience that will linger long after the curtain falls.