Views / Backstage Pass Saskatoon

A story of star-crossed steppers: Ballet brings Shakespeare to Saskatchewan

The story is set in fair Verona and is being staged by a company from Manitoba. But when the world-famous Royal Winnipeg Ballet brings Romeo and Juliet to Saskatchewan this month, it will in some ways be coming home.

“It’s a production we’ve had since the early ’80s that Arnold Spohr, a (Rhein) Saskatchewan native, brought to the company when he was director. It’s been a great success,” current artistic director Andre Lewis said in a telephone interview with Metro. “There’s beautiful dancing, beautiful production values, it’s a big show.”

Lewis says the size and scope of the show is one of the reasons the company doesn’t often take it on tour, which makes its upcoming appearances in the province a special treat.

“It certainly is a challenge; obviously we have a touring history and have the know-how, but still there’s 40-odd people onstage and to carry those people, plus the crew and administration, is a major challenge.”

And while logistics may limit the number of visits the dancing Capulets and Montagues make outside of Winnipeg, when they do hit the road the show has proven tremendously popular.

“It is such a well known story and people relate to it, it’s still relevant today. With the hatred between families and the tension, but it’s also such a beautifully woven love story within those warring families that people still connect to it.”

Lewis says the popularity of the production is somewhat ironic, as the play was once considered “undanceable.” Adapted by Sergei Prokofiev in 1935, he believes the source material not only lends itself well to ballet, it is also the perfect production for people who are less familiar with the art form.

“For first-time goers it’s the perfect vehicle to come into the world of ballet and explore it and find out if they feel comfortable with it. It’s a well-known story and it’s an art form that’s very classically driven in this case so there’s nothing to fear in seeing it.”

The show will be performed in Regina on Jan. 13 and in Saskatoon on Jan. 14 and 15 and will tour Western Canada before heading home for a series of dates in Winnipeg in February.

“Ballet still has a place in our society, it’s a beautiful art form that has the power to move people and that’s especially true with an emotional story like Romeo and Juliet,” Lewis said.

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