[Review] Romeo & Juliet by SDT

Photo: Bernie Ng

by Megha Bhattacharya

It doesn’t come as a surprise that Romeo & Juliet is one of the most popular tragedies of Shakespeare to be performed. The story of star-crossed lovers and their ill fated love story is a fitting depiction of the passion and fervour of first love. In the current world of hatred and xenophobia, this story of two lovers without any historically perpetuated prejudice is a lesson to be remembered. And hence this performance by Singapore Dance Theatre comes at a great time portraying the story in the language of ballet. 

Shakespeare’s timeless ballet Romeo & Juliet was choreographed by Goh Choo San, a legend in the Singapore ballet scene and an internationally acclaimed ballet choreographer. His legacy is kept alive and pirouetting by Janek Schergen, Artistic Director of SDT. Adding to the splendour of the ballet was the live music performance of Prokofiev by the Metropolitan Festival Orchestra.

It started off beautifully with a piece by Fate, played by May Yen Cheah, and a backstory of the Capulets & Montague’s feud setting the backdrop for this fatal affair. Followed by the street scene where our hero, Romeo enters with his playful friends. The street scenes were one of the most loved ones, owing to the graceful synchronicity of the dancers and justifying the entertainment factor of ballet for a novice audience.

The charm of Shakespearean comic relief was well portrayed by the supporting characters, but the physicality of humour especially from Mercutio could have been executed even better. It is after all these light moments that highlight the expressive freedom of art forms like ballet!

My favourite scenes include the personification of Fate when these star crossed lovers meet due to Fate’s humble meddling. The dramatic element provided by Fate when Juliet is informed of Romeo’s true identity by her nurse made it a bone chilling cinematic moment. The street fight scenes were performed with great spontaneity and realism. Special mentions to the heart-warming rendering of Juliet’s Nurse and Tybalt’s passionate dueling with Mercutio.

The real stars of the show were the main couple playing Romeo and Juliet – Chihiro Uchida & Kenya Nakamura. Their sparkling chemistry and graceful moves made the repertoire effortless and aspirational. You could feel the “love in the air” when they express their love in the iconic balcony scene. And this indeed wrenches your heart during the “Fateful” scene of the intertwined lovers lying together for the afterlife.

Photo: Bernie Ng

Being an ardent fan of grand Elizabethan Shakespeare outfits, I was ever so mildly disappointed by the inhibitions they cause in ballet dancing. What I missed in the costumes was more than made up by the whimsical set, soulful soundtrack, and the graceful en pointe of the SDT artistic team.

Romeo & Juliet was just the first performance of the Dare to Dance Season 2020. It is safe to say they started the year on high, and this extravagant, romantic ballet will linger in my mind for quite some time.