- Shevaun Williams
Oklahoma City Ballet presents a world premiere production of Romeo & Juliet this weekend. The tragic story of Shakespeares star-crossed lovers caught between feuding families is reinterpreted through dance with original choreography by Robert Mills, OKC Ballet artistic director. Its set to Sergei Prokofievs lush score, performed live by the Oklahoma City Philharmonic (OKC Phil).
While Romeo & Juliet is synonymous with the struggles of young love, Mills believes that Shakespeares message is not just about this one couple but the need for more love and understanding in society.
Had it not been for the feud between the Montagues and the Capulets, the young lovers would be together, Mills said. But the hatred between their families ultimately caused their deaths.Mills said Romeo & Juliet is relevant today because most people, at some point in their lives, feel like they must overcome great obstacles, oftentimes in love.
Mills danced in two different adaptations of the tale and always recognized its inherent dramatic strengths that also make it a strong candidate for adaptation. It has long been his ambition to choreograph his own version, and he knew exactly where to start.
While Shakespeares play endures on its own merits, Mills thinks that ballet translations of Romeo & Juliet continue to be popular due in large part to Prokofievs score, which was originally commissioned by Bolshoi Ballet.
There have been numerous beautiful versions of the ballet, but it is the music that has survived throughout, Mills said. It beautifully reflects the mood and tone of each scene and what is meant to take place.
Working with Maestro Joel Levine at the OKC Phil, Mills streamlined the narrative, eliminated superfluous scenes and, in some cases, altered music cues to change emphasis.
Mills also spent over a year watching variations of the story, getting ideas for staging, tone and craftsmanship. He opted for an approach that is faithful to the play.
For the choreography, I used multiple methods to create the movement, the biggest being the story itself and the emotional context within each scene, which can dictate the quality of the steps in terms of energy and tempi, Mills said.
Mills said that ballet is the vehicle used to tell the story. He has taken care to make sure that each dancer understands their character and motivation, which helps them deliver authentic performances.
After months of work, Mills said he is eager to share his vision.
The sets and costumes are gorgeous and, I have to say, the dancers are doing an amazing job finding their characters and honing their steps, Mills said.
Mills will do pre-show question-and-answer sessions at 7:30 p.m. before each evening performance in the south lobby.
Print headline: True romance, A ballet director showcases his passion for Shakespeares classic tale with a world premiere of his interpretation of Romeo & Juliet.