In her ‘Romeo and Juliet’, first created in 2013 and starring the Bad Boys of Dance, Adrienne Canterna breaks the rules of traditional ballet. This fresh and exciting version of Shakespeare’s tragedy reaches out to a wide audience, combining classical ballet with modern dance and even hip-hop.
Choreographer Adrienne Canterna stars as the young and utterly lovesick Juliet. When I interviewed her last month during the show’s latest international tour, Adrienne told me: “I’d wanted to make this show since I was teenager, because I was always so captivated by Juliet, I loved her so much, and always wanted to play her.”
Romeo and his sweetheart are endearing teenagers, touchingly naïve and helplessly in love – Adrienne told me this was her aim: to make the show to feel young, but not trendy. Trapped in their little romantic bubble, the couple sweep the whole audience along with them on a heart-warming journey, which nevertheless ends in inevitable tragedy.
The chemistry between the two stars is almost tangible – you would never believe Richard Villaverde, playing Romeo, has only been with the company for a month. Adrienne perfectly incarnates Juliet’s beauty and innocence, and the dancer leaves the audience open-mouthed at her astonishing strength and flexibility.
Each character has powerful personality – a prologue introduces Shakespeare’s characters including a lively Montague threesome, a thuggish and aggressive group of Capulet boys lead by gangster Tybalt, sweet Juliet and her motherly Nurse, and a very entertaining, self-absorbed suitor, Paris. “I loved creating all the characters,” said Adrienne, “thinking about what they would do gesturally, what they would wear, and what type of music would speak about them.”
The music is composed of a mix of classical music and modern pop tracks such as Katy Perry’s ‘Teenage Dream’ or Jay Z’s ‘Forever Young’, each piece a perfect fit to the scene or character. “I wanted a good blend of classical and modern because sometimes the characters feel mature, and other times they’re just really young. It was difficult because some of it fit perfectly, and other bits I had to really think about what would go.”
This vibrant and exciting version is not your average Romeo and Juliet. “So much of what is done with Romeo and Juliet is beautiful and I love it but it’s just so old. I wanted to keep it from their [Romeo and Juliet’s] eyes, their heart and their perspective, but also for it to be authentic. It felt like me – when I wanted it to be classical it was, when I didn’t it wasn’t – I didn’t find it difficult to mix classical and modern because I didn’t put any pressure on myself to make it a traditional ‘Romeo and Juliet’.”
With inspiration from various ballets and films, such as Baz Luhrmann’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’, Canterna’s production is theatrical and innovative. The young dancers are strikingly talented, and visible previous ballet training means each movement is immaculately executed and their technique is exceptional. This extraordinary quality of dance is blended with pure joy and an obvious happiness to be on the stage embodying their characters.
This love-filled production will definitely put a smile on your face. “I hope it makes people hold others tighter, and that it makes you cherish and treasure your loved ones,” said Adrienne.
I wanted to know how creating a story-based show – as opposed to Adrienne Canterna’s previous Rock the Ballet shows – has affected the young choreographer’s work. “‘Romeo and Juliet’ pushes me to be honest, not to just do what I think the audience wants,” she explained. “I can’t be anything but her [Juliet] and the characters can’t be anything but themselves, so it keeps me authentic. When I made the show, I created Juliet thinking about my own daughter, and the nurse thinking about myself as her mother, so it’s very personal to me. I had very high expectations of myself and wanted the show to feel perfect, but honestly creating was a dream – I’m so grateful.”
Excitingly, Adrienne is creating a brand new ‘Rock the Ballet’ this year, ‘Rock the Ballet X’, to mark the ten-year anniversary of touring with the original show.
You can find out more about the Bad Boys of Dance, Adrienne Canterna and her production company SweetBird Productions here.