A New Romeo and Juliet

 

Edwaard Liang is one of the ballet world’s choreographers du jour. His work appears in the repertoires of The Joffrey Ballet, Kirov Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, among other top companies. But until now, the former New York City Ballet dancer has only created short abstract contemporary pieces. He’ll test his classical full-length mettle next month with a brand new Romeo and Juliet for Tulsa Ballet. We checked in with him to see how rehearsals are going.

 

How is creating a full-length uniquely challenging?

My ballets always have stories, but most of the time it’s just in my mind—I don’t really tell the audience, they can find their own way. In this realm, everyone knows the story, but I still have to tell it, and do so in a seamless way without skipping anything. The magic is that Prokofiev’s score tells everything. All I have to do is follow his genius.

 

What went through your head when Tulsa Ballet director Marcello Angelini first approached you about this project?

It’s a big risk for a director to ask a contemporary choreographer to do a pure, classical Romeo and Juliet. In the beginning, I think he had more belief in me than I had in myself. But once I got in the studio I just relied on really characterizing the dancers, making sure I told story and listened to the music. I wouldn’t say it’s easy, but it’s fun and fantastic.

 

How did it feel to work with the classical vocabulary?

It made me grow. These are the steps I trained in and grew up with. It was fun to create the variations, the group dances, the village dances—they’re so different from what I’m used to.

 

What about the sword fight scenes?

I choreographed those together with master sword fighter Steve White. I trained with him in New York for six months off and on beforehand to learn the basics so that I could understand it with my body. In Tulsa, I gave the trafficking, he built in the fight choreography, then I tweaked that and came up with steps.

 

In your opinion, what makes Romeo and Juliet so suited to ballet?

You’re not having to fall in love with a swan queen who’s half bird, half human, you’re not a weird peasant who turns into a ghost. It’s clearly about humanity—human emotions and relationships. It’s a universal love story.

 

Tulsa Ballet performs Liang’s Romeo and Juliet February 10–12 at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center. For more info and tickets, visit tulsaballet.org.

 

Latest Posts


Left to right: Dance Theatre of Harlem's Daphne Lee, Amanda Smith, Lindsey Donnell and Alexandra Hutchinson in a scene from Dancing Through Harlem. Derek Brockington, Courtesy Dance Theatre of Harlem

Dancers Share Their Key Takeaways After a Year of Dancing on Film

Creating dances specifically for film has become one of the most effective ways that ballet companies have connected with audiences and kept dancers employed during the pandemic. Around the world, dance organizations are finding opportunities through digital seasons, whether conceiving cinematic, site-specific pieces or filming works within a traditional theater. And while there is a consistent sentiment that nothing will ever substitute the thrill of a live show, dancers are embracing this new way of performing.

Keep reading SHOW LESS

#TBT: Mikhail Baryshnikov in "Fancy Free" (1981)

In Jerome Robbins's 1944 ballet Fancy Free, three sailors on leave spend the day at a bar, attempting to woo two young women by out-dancing and out-charming one another. In this clip from 1981, Mikhail Baryshnikov, who was then both the artistic director of American Ballet Theatre and a leading performer with the company, pulls out all the stops to win the ladies' affections.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Bethany Kirby, Courtesy Tulsa Ballet

An Infectious-Disease Physician on What Vaccines Mean for Ballet

As the coronavirus pandemic grinds into its second year, the toll on ballet companies—and dancers—has been steep. How long before dancers can rehearse and perform as they once did?

Like most things, the return to normal for ballet seems to hinge on vaccinations. Just over 22 percent of people in the U.S. are now vaccinated, a way from the estimated 70 to 85 percent experts believe can bring back something similar to pre-pandemic life.

But what would it mean for 100 percent of a ballet company to be vaccinated? Tulsa Ballet artistic director Marcello Angelini is about to find out—and hopes it brings the return of big ballets on the big stage.

"I don't think companies like ours can survive doing work for eight dancers in masks," Angelini says. "If we want to work, dance, and be in front of an audience consistently and with the large works that pay the bills, immunization is the only road that leads there."

Keep reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks