Feb 9, 2012
A dance of love
The Tulsa Ballet will make history this weekend when it brings to life its own version of Shakespeare’s classic “Romeo and Juliet.” The company commissioned nationally recognized freelance choreographer Edwaard Liang to create the production.
“We have done, three times, Michael Smuin’s version, which I think is one of the most beautiful versions of ‘Romeo and Juliet,’” says Marcello Angelini, Tulsa Ballet artistic director. “When you do a production three times in a row, you owe it to your audience to do something new.”
In April 2010, Angelini observed as Liang choreographed “Beautiful Child,” one of three ballets comprising “Pop Culture,” a world premiere production performed in Tulsa Ballet’s Studio K Theater.
Angelini says the “lightbulb went on” as he watched Liang create beautiful pieces that ranged from romantic to comedic. Recognizing a unique opportunity, Angelini approached Liang about choreographing an entirely new production.
“I pushed him one day and said, ‘Edwaard, what do you think about creating a new “Romeo and Juliet”?’” Angelini says.
Liang says he was “absolutely interested” but also nervous.
Liang began choreographing ballets when he was part of the Netherlands Dance Theater One in Holland in 2002 and has since created pieces for world-renowned companies, such as The Kirov Ballet of St. Petersburg, Russia, and the San Francisco Ballet. Although he has choreographed many pas de deux, “Romeo and Juliet” is his first full-length ballet.
“I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel,” Liang says. “My goal is to use this masterpiece of a score (by Sergei Prokofiev) to showcase the music and dancers.”
Liang says he recognizes the risk Angelini is taking by letting the young but established American choreographer develop a new version of a classic.
“Marcello calls it a ‘calculated risk,’” Liang says. “There are not a lot of directors that will give an opportunity like this to a choreographer who has never done a full-length production before.”
Liang has been working with Tulsa Ballet dancers since Nov. 15 to create the ballet. He says the company found short moments to prepare between rehearsals for “Winter Celebration” and “The Nutcracker” in December. The dancers had a six-week concentrated time with Liang before this month’s world premiere of “Romeo and Juliet.”
Jerry Wolf, Tulsa Ballet’s wardrobe director, says the company borrowed the set and costumes for “Romeo and Juliet” from the Houston Ballet.
Wolf says the set, designed by David Walker, an English set and costume designer, will make audiences feel as though they are actually in Verona at a Shakespearean production of “Romeo and Juliet.”
The setting and costumes offer the right mix of realism and theatrics, Wolf says.
Angelini says he hopes this ballet shows audiences why Tulsa Ballet has become one of the nation’s premier dance companies.
“Hopefully this ‘Romeo and Juliet’ will travel the world for the next 20 years,” Angelini says. “I want to do that for Tulsa.”
Tulsa Ballet’s “Romeo and Juliet” will be performed Feb. 10 and 11 at 8 p.m. and Feb. 12 at 3 p.m. at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center, 110 E. Second St. For tickets, visit MyTicketOffice.com.