English National Ballet is reviving this season the 1998 production of Derek Deane’s Romeo & Juliet. The work has special resonances for Artistic Director Tamara Rojo since she was the first Juliet in the role. On this occasion, she has brought Carlos Acosta from the Royal Ballet to appear as a guest artist and dance the role of Romeo to her Juliet. The couple have danced Kenneth Macmillan’s version for many years at the Royal Opera House and in this performance they demonstrated why they form one of the best dancing couples in the ballet world today. They danced with great confidence, intensity and complicity.

English National Ballet, Romeo and Juliet © ASH
English National Ballet, Romeo and Juliet
© ASH

The most salient feature of Deane’s Romeo & Juliet is that it was specially made for the round arena of the Royal Albert Hall and therefore makes a generous use of the space of the big oval pitch. The busy streets of Verona and the crowded ball at the Capulet’s house are superbly recreated by very dynamic ensembles. The spectacular formations and floor patterns of the group dances highlight the imposing society in which the love story takes place. The gay ostentation of the public spaces is, however, well-balanced with the austere sobriety of the intimate scenes at the bedroom, the garden and the chapel. This blend of collective exuberance and personal tragedy makes this production an admirable instance of dance as a dramatic spectacle. The excellent staging, and the powerful score by Prokofiev, contribute to the audio-visual splendour of the ballet.

English National Ballet, Romeo and Juliet © ASH
English National Ballet, Romeo and Juliet
© ASH
In the opening night of this revival, the excellent performance of the ballet by both the principal roles and the corps de ballet made a success of the evening. Rojo portrayed a Juliet as a stubborn adolescent who is brave to make her own decisions, refusing the destiny drafted for her by her father. Defying conventions, her Juliet is also deeply and sincerely in love with Romeo. Acosta was similarly convincing as a passionate lover, although his Romeo was most moving in his despairing fight with Tybalt. A reluctant participant in the secular rivalry between the Capulets and the Montagues, he was painfully aware of his powerlessness to prevent the tragedy. His brothers in arms, Mercutio and Benvolio, supported his fated involvement with honest camaraderie. Acosta’s nephew Yonah Acosta played the role of Mercutio with admirable freshness and ease and Junor Souza’s Benvolio was the quiet and conciliatory counterpart to Yonah’s lovable rascal. Both young dancers showed refined technique and panache, perfectly complementing Acosta’s accomplished maturity. It was a pleasure to see this trio of exceptional male dancers sharing the stage.

Romeo & Juliet will be at the Royal Albert Hall until the 22 June. In addition to Rojo and Acosta, several casts will offer different approaches and interpretations of the principal roles. On the last day of the season, Daria Klimentová will bid farewell to ENB after eighteen years in the company. She will dance Juliet to Vadim Muntagirov’s Romeo, who will be guesting from the Royal Ballet to allow the last appearance of a partnership that has offered many stellar performances to British audiences during the past few years.