Northern Ballet soloist Dreda Blow had to cast aside all preconceptions of Shakespeare’s heroine when she assumed the female lead in Jean-Christophe Maillot’s modern interpretation of Romeo and Juliet coming to the Sheffield Lyceum next week.
“Juliet isn’t the young, naïve, sweet and gentle girl as we often imagine her character to be,“ she says. “She is more like a rebellious teenager – she’s feisty, she’s got guts, and she’s not a weak character at all.
“She is still lovely and of course she really loves Romeo, all the romance is there, but it’s cheekier, it’s more playful, and she challenges him – she’s more of an equal. It’s not just him sweeping her off her feet.
“That was the challenge for me when we first performed Romeo and Juliet (in 2015) – to take all of the things I thought I knew about Juliet out of my head.”
Now, returning to the role, has its advantages. “I feel like now I understand the physicality of the role better, and I have more confidence in playing her,” says the Canadian dancer. “So I can play a little bit more with the rebelliousness and the feisty side of her character.” Romeo and Juliet is Northern Ballet’s first collaboration with the acclaimed choreographer who recently created a new version of The Taming of the Shrew for the Bolshoi Ballet. There is a difference working on a piece conceived for another company rather than something developed within Northern Ballet.
“When something’s created on us, it plays to our strengths and the kind of movement quality we already have naturally.
“When it’s been created on a completely different company, the challenge is often physical with the different dynamics and execution of the movement,” says Dreda.
“For Romeo and Juliet, I find that the steps themselves aren’t particularly difficult, but they are extremely difficult to do well.
So even though the choreography was already made, it still needed just as much rehearsal time if not more so than a new Northern Ballet creation, because we had to really absorb it and work on it to get the movement into our bodies.
“But we’re a company of strong dance actors, so I feel like we were able to throw ourselves into this production. We worked really hard to maintain the integrity of the characters and to perform this production to the high standard that Jean-Christophe and Les Ballets de Monte Carlo were looking for.”
Maillot choreographed his Romeo and Juliet in 1996 (the same year as Baz Luhrmann’s film was released) and uses the original music by Prokofiev, one of the most well known ballet scores which has become part of popular culture as the theme tune for The Apprentice.
“Prokofiev’s music is just the most incredible score, and it tells the entire story in itself,” says Dreda.
Romeo and Juliet is at the Lyceum Theatre from Wednesday to Saturday.