By: Fitri Handayani and Grace Hong
The story of the two star-crossed lovers is hardly unknown. Perhaps one of the most famous works of literature, Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet epitomises the sacrifice of true love. However, we were in for a surprise on opening night, as the Singapore Dance Theatre’s rendition of Goh Choo San’s choreography set itself apart from the play we all know – bringing new themes and perspectives to the foray.
Goh Choo San’s choreography dismantles the patriarchal set-up, as Juliet claims central role of the protagonist in her growth and relationship with fate. Strengthened by the personification of Fate – an accompanying ballerina, no less – Fate is feminised, evoking the question of fate as the higher power or Juliet’s free agency. At times, Fate dancingly beckons Juliet to her future, bringing her towards Romeo and circling them as she establishes their love. Yet, Juliet’s mere mirroring progresses to a partnership as she and Fate partake in a joint dance where both move in synchronization. The notion of Juliet and Fate as equals both empowers and undermines Juliet as she seems to create her own destiny, but is limited to that of her own destruction.
With dialogue removed, the audience’s attention is gripped by dance which replaces unspoken words in expression. The artistes extend their role beyond ballet to that of theatre, coupling dance and acting in convincing the audience. One of the most striking scenes is Act III Scene I where Juliet (Rosa Park), having fallen for Romeo (Chen Peng), blatantly rejects the marriage proposal of Paris (Kenya Nakamura). She dances her grievance and heartbreak, pleading Lord Capulet (Mohamed Noor Sarman) to spare her from this forced matrimony. Her movements mimic a doll’s – flexible and light – as she swings into Lord Capulet’s arms. Though we cannot hear her, it speaks volumes of her helplessness in controlling her destiny.
With experienced and skillful international artistes, this ballet brings a well-known classic to new levels. A notable piece that successfully interweaves dance with mime, it is a definite must see for all.