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MacMillan Romeo and Juliet


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I've recently read the Daneman biography of Fonteyn, which made me all the more curious about her unfortunate 'rivals', particularly the Romeo and Juliet episode with Lynn Seymour where Fonteyn and Nureyev premiered the roles created on Seymour and Christopher Gable, depriving them of their big break. I then read Lynn Seymour's autobiography.

Do any dancers today follow her conception of the role, where Juliet is strong-willed, passionate and earthy, instead of Fonteyn's more "moonlit" interpretation? It seems like the casting changed how the ballet is performed and perceived, going against the choreographer's original intention to produce a more ribald, shocking work. Has the Seymour performance tradition been lost, or have you seen dancers choosing between Seymour's realism and Fonteyn's romanticism?

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I don't know if anyone has matched Seymour, one of the great dramatic ballerinas, in this role, but Ferri has given a very passionate interpretation of it. I wouldn't say it was as earthy as I've heard Seymour described, but it sounds closer to Seymour on a scale of Seymour to Fonteyn.

It's a rarity when an established artist goes far out of his/her comfort zone to adapt another style or approach, especially when s/he will be compared to the dancer on whom the role was based, although it happens with the original cast as well. (In Theme and Variations, Balanchine was reported to be frustrated with Youskevitch, who performed the role "square." In his memoir Martins describes how he was replaced by Sean Lavery in the first movement of Tchaikovsky Suite No. 3 because he wasn't getting it.)

In Seymour's description, it was a political decision to cast Fonteyn/Nureyev in the roles. MacMillan was far from running the Company at that time. Balanchine repetiteurs, like Farrell, have described the challenges they have when they try to cast the ballet for other companies with strict hierarchies.

I think the role supports a wide range of interpretations. Even if the rest of the cast is performing an earthier version, a romantic Juliet, a character whose family attempts to shelter her, can be seen as a contrast to outside society.

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Thanks Helene. In addition to the Fonteyn video I've seen Amanda McKerrow in the role, and I didn't feel there was anything lacking in her choice to be sweet and shy. I have been trying to catch Ferri in the role for years but unfortunately she has often been injured. I'm interested in seeing Vishneva perform it since even her Giselle was a bit of a rebel!

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Julie Kent's Juliet is definitely in the headstrong class. I do not particularly like this ballet and don't think I've even seen it since Robert Hill retired, thus depriving ABT's most interesting (at least then) Juliet of her best Romeo. The two were electrically charged in each other's presence, always making something that was greater than the sum of their parts.

Sad when a partnership like that ends.

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I was a teenager when I saw Lynn Seymour dance Juliet in San Francisco. I remember my first impression of her in the bedroom scene...I remember thinking she seemed plain and a little pudgy looking. And, then...she began to move and dance. What a revelation! Her Juliet was one of the most moving performances I have EVER seen. But, it was the two of them together...Seymour and Gable. What a dynamic, perfectly matched pair! I have rarely seen such great acting combined with great dancing. They WERE Romeo and Juliet! They absolutely brought the house down! It was so long ago, but in my memory, it lives as one of the best performances I have ever seen...

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I somehow missed this thread when it first appeared and discovered it only after seeing -- and thinking quite a lot about -- several very impressive, deeply felt performances by Tina Martin at Ballet Florida.

Martin was definitely in the "strong-willed" camp. I've seen Ferri, Markarova, Fonteyn, and others, plus videos of Ulanova, Beessertnova, and lots of snippets by Ulanova and others. But for some reason have not given much thought to this question before now. (Maybe that's because the story is so familiar -- and the beautiful music so episodic and discocnnected).

Beck-hen makes the interesting suggestion that interpretations fall into two general categories -- "strong-willed" v. "moonlit". That seems right, but I wonder how others feel.

Are there indeed two general approaches tot he ballet? Or are there others? And who, among those who've interpreted the role, falls into which catetgory?

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