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Kiwis kick new life into classic tragedy

THE Royal New Zealand Ballet is bringing its acclaimed production of "Romeo And Juliet" to Shanghai. A new take on an evergreen story. Nie Xin falls in love with it.

Romeo and Juliet," the eternally popular romantic tragedy by William Shakespeare, has been seen in many guises. Ballet has turned out to be one of the most enduring especially with the music of Prokofiev.

The classic story was mounted in 2003 by Christopher Hampson for the Royal New Zealand Ballet for its 50th jubilee. It was a triumph in New Zealand and in England, where it received a Laurence Olivier nomination for Best New Dance Production.

With "Romeo and Juliet," the Royal New Zealand Ballet has surpassed itself in delivering a world class performance brilliantly conceived and given contemporary relevance.

Very soon, the company will bring its "Romeo and Juliet" to the Shanghai Oriental Art Center.

The Royal New Zealand Ballet was formed in 1953 by Danish Royal Ballet principal dancer Poul Gnatt. It is seen as an intrinsic part of the country's national heritage, and has the largest following of all of New Zealand's performing arts companies.

The company today has developed a reputation for strong characterizations in its staging of dramatic works, and this became a hallmark of its work in the 1980s. The dancers of the company possess a unique physical strength and versatility, and a well developed sense of individuality.

This "Romeo and Juliet" production is a clever mix of crowd scenes, small ensembles and couples. The contrast between the various social groupings allows for a range of dance from the formal to the intimate and highlights the skills of a number of the company's dancers.

"I added many modern elements to this classical ballet and tried a lot of different things in the staging and moves. The story is also put into a more modern era. Some of these ideas came from the film 'Romeo and Juliette' starring Leonardo DiCaprio in 1996," says Hampson.

Hampson is a Manchester-born choreographer who trained at the Royal Ballet School, and started his choreographic work at the Royal Ballet School after winning the 1992 Ursula Moreton Choreographic Competition.

Prokofiev's music for the ballet is one of the most engaging and dramatic ballet scores of all time and enhances the ballet's emotions. Tracy Grant Lord's set design is dramatically riveting. A huge set of flat planes and hard surfaces revolve between black and white, symbolic of the light but mostly dark sides of life in feud-torn Verona, all watched over by a huge, pock-marked moon.

Date: June 12-13

Venue: Opera Hall, Shanghai Oriental Art Center, 425 Dingxiang Rd, Pudong

Tickets: 100-600 yuan


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