Roméo et Juliette - Preview for Young People
The vigorous back and forth movement of the dancers dressed in black and white costumes is suggestive of the battles between the Capulets (in white) and the Montagues (in black). There are no weapons; the scene has no particular historical or geographical setting; even the women, barefoot, participate in the tumult. A body lying on the ground recalls the intervention of the Prince; Juliet and her nurse also run onto the scene. The young girl dances lightheartedly before the nurse, while Romeo, already in love with her, stands and watches.Another body falls to the ground; the Prince’s presence cools the fiery tempers. Couples embrace and tease each other. The atmosphere is tense, suspicious glances are exchanged.
The dancers form a chain which opens and closes, and their gestures, which seemingly move to the words being sung, are reminiscent of the animosity between the rival families. To the voice of the mezzo-soprano, couples form from smaller and softer groupings, and they evoke the ball and the feast announced by the chorus. In the group, Romeo and Juliet, who are left alone, reveal their love.
Accompanied by the mezzo-soprano, the dance exalts the first unforgettable transports of passion. The couple formed by Romeo and Juliet is mirrored in another couple and in their costumes; there is a contrast between being free and belonging to rival families. They continue to come together and meet, thus sealing the impossibility of attempting to contain their love for reasons of family ties or social constraints. The entrance of Romeo with two friends anticipates the arrival of the tenor along with the chorus.
The “dancing” tenor evokes the bacchanal and confusion created by Queen Mab, a character only mentioned, but not present. All the dancers are possessed by the Shakespearian fairy’s inspiration and by a carefree frenzy. At the end of the tenor’s song, the chorus walks in an austere and composed procession, recalling the impending death, the blood and tears spilled.
Romeo is alone and in his dance he stretches out in space, almost as if searching for comfort, which is to arrive in the form of Mercutio and Benvolio, his elegant companions dressed in black. The white of Romeo’s shirt and the black of his hose break with the contrasting colour conventions. Dressed in tutus and tails, the three go to the masked ball, but the others also have masks and their gestures suggest they are eating and drinking, as is usual at a ball. A fearless Juliet is attracted by Romeo and she caresses him and dances with him along with other couples. As in Shakespeare, the two lovers’ hands meet, but the lyricism is mingled with happiness: the ball ends in general laughter. When everyone has left, Juliet takes off her tutu.
Doubled in number, the chorus sings, and the guests at the ball return as in a dream, dividing the space and the two lovers, who are seated on opposite sides of the stage. Finally, they are alone and they dance a passionate duet, the heart of the story, also made up of caresses and kisses. Juliet rises and flees, while Romeo lies down under the symbolic balcony.
With the entrance of two bare-chested dancers, what becomes a collective dance reenacts moments of the ball with Juliet returning in her tutu. The girl goes up the slanting panel and finds Romeo. Friar Laurence marries the two young people, by simply raising them up. Under the panel, seemingly lifeless girls are dragged on by their partners. Friar Laurence and Juliet are face to face. The panel rises further and projects the shadows of the dancers. Black paint seeps onto the splendid scene as an ambiguous symbol of the deadly poison which pollutes purity, and of the potion that Juliet does not drink, but uses to cover her face, neck and arms before fainting and being carried off. In the ensuing silence, Romeo repeatedly tries to climb the anel which is rising higher and at a more acute angle. Each time he falls back. He continues to dance in the silence. Juliet’s apparently dead body is brought onto the scene.
Juliet’s funeral procession
The chorus and dancers dressed in white (Capulets) walk on; Juliet is supported and several times lifted up by a dancer who recalls Capulet and another dancer wearing black hose, and who we discover to be Friar Laurence’s double, the bass/singer. Turned upside down, Juliet’s body seems to have no peace before burial. The dancers place small stones at her feet and along her sides. The nobleman embraces a suffering figure, probably Lady Capulet. After a final collective farewell, three dancers drop stones and Juliet is buried.
Romeo at the Capulet tomb
Romeo stands before his lover, lies on her body and tries to raise her from the grave. He takes the poison from her hands and rests his head on her breast. When she awakes, she caresses his hair and Romeo, who is not yet dead, dances with her to exhaustion. He falls lifeless into the grave where previously Juliet has lain. Desperate, she throws herself on top of Romeo, takes the poison from his lips, closes his eyes, seizes his hand and seemingly stabs herself, collapsing onto him.
The dancers and chorus, dressed in black and white, crowd around the two corpses. The chorus divides into Capulets and Montagues at the sides of the stage. In the centre, a group of dancers in white remains and they are joined by the bass/singer who impersonates Friar Laurence and takes some gestures and movements from his double. The dance of Friar Laurence/dancer is contrasted by small, distinct groups wearing white, the colour that now only stands for purity. Friar Laurence/dancer hand Juliet’s body to her father. Once Juliet has been laid next to Romeo, a frenzied dance follows the contrast of the two choruses and the imposition of the very mobile bass/singer/Friar Laurence. As he rants, some members of the chorus respond physically, throwing themselves to the ground, but then the two opposing sides come together. Capulets and Montagues begin to reach some understanding and the finale, with Friar Laurence/dancer standing arms raised, is a triumph of the re-found friendship between the rival families.