There were plenty of pirouettes, plies and pointes in the Queensland National Ballet’s student performance of Romeo and Juliet at the concert hall in the Old Museum building in Brisbane.
Director and choreographer Martyn Fleming’s interpretation of William Shakespeare’s play and its most recent film version brought together the old and the new, the classic and contemporary.
Most of the ballet was danced to music from the 1996 Baz Luhrmann Romeo + Juliet movie soundtrack, which lent a modern feel to the performance.
In the opening scene Everclear’s song “Local God” blasted out as dancers leapt around the stage, depicting the fights between the Montagues and the Capulets. Fast-paced and rebellious, it was a great way to start the performance and get the attention of the audience.
The dancing was of a very high quality, most notably that of the principals. Both Juliet, danced by Saraphina Irvin, and Romeo, Jacob Robinson, were outstanding. They moved together as one and the emotion their characters felt for one another was clearly expressed in their moves. Their dances involved many lifts, which they executed with grace and poise.
Anita Brittingham and Zachary Horvat performed in the roles of Juliets parents, Lady and Lord Capulet. Their anger and despair at seeing their daughter with Romeo, a Montague, was portrayed with conviction. They both commanded the stage, with dramatic turns, leaps and lifts.
There were a couple of outstanding scenes during the performance, one being the dancing at the masquerade ball. Rows of dancers in ball gowns moved together in unison, masks covering their faces, to Sergei Prokofiev’s “Dance of the Knights” music.
Prokofiev’s music was written for the classic Romeo and Juliet ballet in the 1930s. Its strong horns and bass and melodic line created a dark and emotionally charged atmosphere.
Another dramatic scene was the sword fight between Romeo and Tybalt (Caleb Irvin), Juliet’s cousin. Music with a heavy beat and frenetic energy played as the two men fought to the death.
Fleming choreographed this scene to perfection. The sword fight became part of the dance, with both characters jumping and leaping out of the way of the other’s sword. The audience sat, tense in their seats, waiting for the outcome.
The costumes of the dancers were varied and colourful. In place of the traditional tutu there were sequinned mini-dresses, ball gowns, jeans and singlet, with the simple leotard also making an appearance.
While the set was very basic and gave the production an amateurish feel it didn’t detract from the professional performance of the dancers. Each one gave their utmost and it was easy to forget that they were students, and not professional ballet dancers.
Queensland National Ballet’s production was a great success and one of which all the students and their teachers should feel very proud.