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Love on the tips of toes

THE Birmingham Royal Ballet will be in town for performances of two classic love stories ?? "Romeo and Juliet" and "Beauty and the Beast." Zhang Qian reports.

Love can be felt in many ways and falling in love can lead to the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. The Birmingham Royal Ballet will perform two love stories with very different outcomes. "Romeo and Juliet" explores the tragic side of love while "Beauty and the Beast" looks at the splendor of love.

Countless versions of "Romeo and Juliet" have been staged since it was written by William Shakespeare in 1593. The story of a pure, intense love between two youths continues to capture the hearts of people today.

The Birmingham Royal Ballet will tell the story based on the three-act ballet version by Kenneth MacMillan with music by Sergey Prokofiev.

Birmingham Royal Ballet is one of the leading classical ballet companies in the UK today. Originally formed as the sister company of today's Royal Ballet, it later became the Sadler's Wells Theater Ballet in 1931. It didn't gain its present name until 1990 when it became the resident ballet company at Birmingham Hippodrome Theater.

Considering all the various interpretations of "Romeo and Juliet," Christopher Barron, president of the Birmingham Royal Ballet, believes the MacMillan version is "the most classic and pure."

MacMillan, one of the great British choreographers of the 20th century, is said to have dwelled often on the darker side of human nature and sexuality.

He preferred characters considered as outsiders by the society. The story of "Romeo and Juliet," staged on January 23 and 24 at Shanghai Grand Theater, is also one of them.

Though we see MacMillan's Juliet in old Verona, she is in many ways a modern girl in love. She is dominant and strong-willed whereas the women of the time were traditionally subservient.

Actors will use real swords on stage to ensure a more life-like performance. They have been trained in fencing in order to give the fight scenes more tension.

As for the ballet troupe's version of "Beauty and the Beast," it will begin in true fairytale style ?? with a book. As the curtain rises, a girl selects a book in a library, opens it and the story begins.

David Bintley, artistic director of the Birmingham Royal Ballet as well as the choreographer of the play, reveals human traits and feelings through the character Beast.

He begins life as a handsome prince, who exhibits cruelty and arrogance toward others. As punishment, the prince is transformed magically into Beast. Now he must alter his character if he is to earn the true love that will break the spell.

The young girl Belle is sent to live with Beast as punishment for her father's theft of a rose from the animal's garden. Dragged from her home and denied access to her family, she is forced to grow up and confront the terrifying Beast on her own. Over time, she comes to see past his scary appearance and is able to love him for the person he is underneath.

Bintley jointed the Royal Ballet in 1976 and soon proved an outstanding dancer. His great works include the full-length "Hobson's Choice," "Flowers of the Forest," "The Snow Queen" and "Cyrano." He was appointed artistic director of Birmingham Royal Ballet in 1995. "Beauty and the Beast" is one of his masterpieces premiered in 2003.

Apart from the beautiful dance and attractive stories, the ballet is also devoted to creating beautiful and vivid scenes.

Barron says they have prepared eight containers of costumes and props for the two ballets. The famous "Juliet's balcony" is sure to take audiences back in time. The British Royal Ballet Orchestra will play live music.

"Beauty and the Beast"

Date: January 21, 7:15pm

"Romeo and Juliet"

Date: January 23-24, 7:15pm

Venue: Shanghai Grand Theater, 300 People's Ave

Tickets: 100-1,080 yuan

Tel: 6217-2426, 6217-3055


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