Shakespeare’s classic romance put to dance

Saniya Abilmajineva is Juliet in Ballet Jorgen’s Romeo and Juliet, Saturday at the Cowichan Theatre. - Cylla von Tiedemann
Saniya Abilmajineva is Juliet in Ballet Jorgen’s Romeo and Juliet, Saturday at the Cowichan Theatre.
— image credit: Cylla von Tiedemann

The works of William Shakespeare have inspired many dances, mostly the famous author’s Romeo and Juliet.

The first dance version was choreographed by Evsebio Luzzi in Venice in 1785.

Centuries later John Cranko took his spin on the classic in ballet format in 1958 for La Scala Ballet in Italy and later in 1962 for the Stuttgart Ballet in Germany.

Most recently, a Canadian ballet company has taken the emotionally-driven, timeless tale under its wings.

And Bengt Jörgen’s interpretation of Romeo and Juliet has won international recognition and critical acclaim. It has been showcased in major cities and communities across Canada, the United States, China and Hong Kong.

And the company’s now added Cowichan on its list of places to showcase the acclaimed masterpiece.

“It’s ready to go and we’re ready for Duncan,” the company’s artistic director Bengt Jorgen said from their headquarters in Toronto.

They’re set to take over Cowichan Theatre’s stage Saturday, Jan. 25.

“It’s been a production that’s toured the world. I think it’s a beautiful rendition of the story,” he said. “It’s definitely been updated over the years with the generations of dancers and we’ve made several additions and updates.

“With time comes ability and perspective. It’s one of our strongest works artistically.”

Cowichanians may have already gotten a taste of Jorgen’s crew when it stopped by the Cowichan Theatre last January for a rendition of Swan Lake.

“We loved it there. It was a great stage, a great atmosphere and great climate,” Jorgen said. “We were very pleased when the presenter invited us back.”

Jorgen’s Romeo and Juliet run started last Friday (Jan. 17) in Guelph, Ontario and eventually wraps up in St. John’s, Newfoundland April 23.

“We go coast to coast,” he explained.

Jorgen’s quite ecstatic about his current company, especially his two leads, Saniya Abilmajineva as Juliet and Hiroto Saito as Romeo, who’ve been members for many years.

You may even spot a local lad or gal among the cast.

With most of the company’s productions, it casts between six and 12 local dance students to take part in the community’s performance.

The recruits rehearse with the company for an hour and a half the day before the show or right after the audition and also two or three hours before curtain call.

Candidates need to learn the choreography quickly, listen well, follow directions and retain them easily and roles for this particular show included villager children and teenagers, ballroom guests and guards.

“Its always interesting because they have to step in so quickly,” Jorgen said. “They tend to be really excited about being a part of the show. It brings a different energy and it really does enhance what we do.”

“It’s a production that’s accessible to anyone,” Jorgen boasted. “Many people know the story, but truth be told, not many people have read it or studied it.”

But that’s OK.

“We tell the story ourselves through movement.”


Your ticket

What: Ballet Jorgen’s Romeo and Juliet

When: Saturday, Jan. 25, 7:30 to 9:30 p.m.

Where: Cowichan Theatre

Tickets: adults $42, students $36, group (10+) $32, eyeGO $5. Call 250-748-7529

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