A short ballet piece from Romeo and Juliet

19.28, Tuesday 4 Aug 2020

I think probably the most beautiful thing I’ve seen in the last few months (and not just because I’m culture-starved) is this 4 minute 39 seconds video on Instagram:

A short piece from Romeo and Juliet from Ballet Opera de Paris.

It was published in mid April, shot in the lockdown deeps. It’s all in portrait mode. You see the dancers’ own homes – which is part of the privilege and intimacy, I think, to see who is in an apartment; who has their own studio; who is simultaneously wrangling their kids. Woven together with Prokofiev’s music, of course.

I just wanted to share that.

I saw Romeo and Juliet at the Royal Opera House in London in 2015, my first time seeing the ballet. In my life, I reckon I’ve probably seen, read, studied, or performed parts of that play maybe… 20 times? Including one decent-length section re-enacted loudly with friends, from memory, at a party. WE KNEW HOW TO LIVE WHEN WE WERE 15. You get a lot of Shakespeare growing up in the UK.

I have a faint memory that both R & J were the young understudies, the regular performers both ill.

I have a strong memory that this was the first time I had ever truly understood Juliet’s torment and decision, and her real understanding of the weight and consequences of that decision. What a performance!

There’s something odd about growing up with a play, especially a great one, is you can kind of take it for granted. Yes of course it makes sense, yes yes yes, it’s a good story, that’s what they do, yes fine.

But then, after seeing, reading, studying, and/or performing it 20+ times (who can say), to be watching this story written 420 years before, to suddenly see these people as people, and for the first time to truly understand and believe and feel and, what’s more, agree with their emotions and actions – I’ll never forget that. It was like I was seeing it for the first time, and as personal as hearing a story from a close friend. The actual moment of Juliet’s torment: the choreography was such that she was alone on the stage, not dancing, just sitting and staring at the audience, and you could see her whole body tortured and clear-eyed deciding what to do. It’s etched into my mind’s eye, and my breath catches when I think of it.

And for it to happen with ballet, where there’s no pretense at realism… well it’s a reminder that verisimilitude is not the be-all and end-all I suppose, and that the classics are the classics for a reason, and that I ought to seek out more ballet when this is all over.

More posts tagged:

If you enjoyed this post, please consider sharing it by email or on social media. Here’s the link. Thanks, —Matt.