Ballet AZ Blog

Behind-The-Scenes of Romeo & Juliet with Ib Andersen

From Prokofiev’s masterful score to choreographing one of Shakespeare’s most seminal works, Artistic Director, Ib Andersen, talks all things, Romeo & Juliet!

Mette-Ida Kirk and Ib Anderson in John Neumeier’s “Romeo & Juliet” at Royal Danish Ballet in 1974.

What is your history with Romeo & Juliet?

I danced Romeo at Royal Danish Ballet with Mette-Ida Kirk. We were about 20 years old. It was the premiere of John Neumeier’s version and it became a huge success, they are still doing that version today. This ballet was very important for me… it came early in my career and during a crucial part of it. In 2012, I went to Denmark and the company was doing Romeo & Juliet. I thought, “Wow! Is this the same ballet we used to do?” Memory is a funny thing, especially when you are very close to something. Your perspective from performing the role changes when watching it from beginning to end. I never actually saw it as an audience member. I knew the ballet because I danced it, but it is such a different experience. I couldn’t believe how different my memory was after watching it 30 years later!

Did you work with Neumeier directly and did that influence your version of the ballet?

Yes, I worked with him on the premiere and even went to Hamburg to work with him. At the time, this was the biggest thing he had ever done outside his own company. Working with him definitely had some influence on me – mostly in the way he tells the story, not choreographically, because we’re very different animals.

Tell us about your version!

Romeo & Juliet is the first full-length ballet we did here after I arrived. We acquired the sets and costumes from Boston Ballet. This ballet has been critical for the success of the company and I consider it one of the best things I’ve done, choreographically. I’m very proud of this version. I love that each time, I’m able to see my choreography better and in different ways, as our dancers change. This ballet is a very human story, not a fairy tale, so I try to make the dancers look like beings instead of dancers. It’s very real and honest.

How hard is it to take Shakespeare’s words away and achieve the same effect through movement?

For me, Romeo & Juliet is all about Prokofiev’s music. The score tells the story. Prokofiev was very specific in how he composed and it’s extraordinarily powerful. You can only do what the music is telling you to do because each part depicts a certain scene so vividly. You need to follow the score more so than Shakespeare’s text or you will not succeed. This is one of the most remarkable scores and the music blows you away every time.

P.S. Romeo & Juliet is coming to Symphony Hall, February 10-13, 2022. Don’t miss your chance to see Prokofiev’s breathtaking score come to life with Ballet Arizona. Click here to purchase your tickets today!

Read ‘10 Things You Need To Know About Prokofiev’

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