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The National Ballet of Canada's Romeo and Juliet

November 16, 2011 was the opening night of The National Ballet of Canada’s Romeo and Juliet.

Romeo and Juliet has been part of the National Ballet’s repertoire since it debuted in 1964. To mark the National Ballet’s 60th anniversary, choreographer Alexei Ratmansky was commisioned to create an entirely new production.

The National Ballet of Canada's Romeo and Juliet

Here’s a refresher on the history of Romeo and Juliet at the National Ballet of Canada:

  • It was first performed by the National Ballet on April 14, 1964 in Montreal at the new Place des Arts. Later that month it was brought to Toronto to run at the O’Keefe Theatre. It was choreographed by John Cranko, a South African choreographer. Galina Samtsova and Earl Kraul danced the lead roles.
    This “[production] represented a watershed for the dancers individually as well as the company as a whole. The expansion that followed in its wake spelled the end of the close family feeling that had characterized the company during its earliest years” (Neufled, 120).
  • Earl Kraul and Galina Samtsova in Romeo and Juliet
    Earl Kraul and Galina Samtsova in Romeo and Juliet care of The National Ballet’s archives

  • In 1965 Romeo and Juliet was filmed for CBC television by Norman Campbell, famed Canadian television producer.
  • The composition that has carried through from Cranko’s Romeo and Juliet to Ratmansky’s was written by Sergei Prokofiev, a Russian composer. Besides Romeo and Juliet, Prokofiev is know for composing Peter and the Wolf.
  • 1976 saw a revival of the piece with entirely new costumes. The production coincided with the National Ballet’s 25th anniversary. On November 14, 1976 many former dancers came out of retirement to appear for a special performance. These included Lilian Jarvis as Juliet, Hazaros Surmeyan as Romeo, Yves Cousineau as Tybalt and Celia Franca as Lady Capulet.
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  • Ratmansky is currently Artist-in-Residence and Artistic Advisor at American Ballet Theatre and the former Artistic Director of the Bolshoi Ballet. The National Ballet’s artistic director Karen Kain brought Ratmansky and his work to Toronto earlier this year with his piece Russian Seasons.
  • The Ratmansky production will be quite different from Cranko’s orginal. He’s included sections that had been cut out in Cranko’s such as Dance of the Girls With the Lilies. Ratmansky told the Toronto Star that he sees his version as something different and new for the company “I’m not competing with Cranko. That would be crazy. I’m simply creating something new for these dancers.”

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