If you have ever wondered how important technology has become to dance productions, then you should have been in the audience for Rasta Thomas’ production of Romeo and Juliet, at 7.30pm sharp. It was evident as soon as the production started there was a technical fault. The dancers bravely made it through the first two scenes before the performance was stopped and restarted 30 minutes later.
The difference between the two versions was incredible. Audible sounds from the audience were heard, as they actually understood the context of the dance actions. A particular moment that stood out, was Mercutio and Benvolio entering the stage dancing around with wooden sticks, first time around this was an odd image. As it turned out the projector was meant to display an image of a snooker table; the meaning was suddenly apparent, the props suddenly had a purpose.
As much as I am a huge fan of technology and welcome bringing dance into the modern world, it concerns me as to just how much of an impact it can make. Should the choreography have been able to stand alone? In my opinion, yes.
The choreography is actually created by Adrienne Canterna, not Rasta Thomas, she also plays Juliet in the production. Her creation of Romeo and Juliet has a modern twist, in that she wants the audience to see the story from the eyes of the teenagers at the forefront of the narrative. She also brings new dance styles to the traditional Ballet as well as mixing the Prokofiev score with pop artists such as Lady Gaga, My Chemical Romance and Katy Perry. The result is an exciting and entertaining performance piece, but it lacks in choreographic flare and finesse. The dance styles are very generic with not much fusing of the different techniques; one moment you are watching Juliet en pointe delicately dancing with the Nurse, the next you suddenly feel like you are in a nightclub with loud music, flashing lights and rather raunchy dance actions. The transitions between these constant extremes are clumsy and they highlight the cliché choreography in each section.
The performance quality on the other hand is outstanding. Every one of the ten dancers are superb in their execution of all dance styles. An impressive feat. The dancer who play Tybalt (Ryan Carlson) is particularly impressive. Every scene he performs in is heightened by his electric performance and flawless execution. The fight scene between Tybalt and Romeo in Act two in which Tybalt ultimately dies is exceptionally good.
This is a fun and entertaining production and one that a group of teenagers would adore. For me there was too much of a disparity between the serious, emotional, evocative scenes, and the scenes that played for laughs from the audience. I have watched versions of Romeo and Juliet, (and West Side Story) that have had me sobbing watching the moment Mercutio dies. For me this is such a poignant moment, highlighting that 400 years after the words are written, similar scenes are visible in society today. Canterna instead chose to use this moment to look for laughs in the audience. But, if you are looking for a masterclass in dance technique and captivating performance, don’t miss it!
Reviewd by Sara Daniels
(Sara is a freelance dance teacher and lecturer in dance education)