Fate's big role in new Romeo And Juliet
IT WAS the 1960s. The late Goh Choo San, then a gangly teenager, was sneaking into Capitol Theatre with his sister to watch and rewatch the film version of the ballet Romeo And Juliet, choreographed by Leonid Lavrovsky.
Juliet was played by one of the greatest ballerinas of all time - Galina Ulanova. As Goh watched her spin and soar with virtuosic precision, all the while expressing a gamut of pure emotions, it crystallised his resolve to someday become a full-time dancer.
A decade later, Goh had fulfilled his dream of becoming a dancer, performing first with the Dutch National Ballet and then the Washington Ballet. By 1984, he had also created his own interpretation of Romeo And Juliet - his only full-length choreographic work - three years before he fell victim to the Aids epidemic.
Goh's legacy, however, lives on with the Singapore Dance Theatre's (SDT's) revival of his version of Romeo And Juliet.
Helmed by SDT artistic director Janek Schergen - a former colleague and close friend of Goh's - it will be performed with all the oomph and extravagance that the 16th century love story demands.
Schergen is determined to tell the story in all its richness. He says: "I've sent the male dancers three times a week to fencing lessons, so that they can fight convincingly on stage."
For Schergen, Goh's version is exceptional and unique because Goh imbues the story with an Asian sensibility no other extant version has.
He says: "Goh created a character called Fate. Coming from an Asian perspective, he felt that there was an element of fate that ran though the story.
"The idea is that Romeo and Juliet have to meet so that their families can, in a way, suffer this tragedy and realise the outcome of their actions."
Fate is embodied by a ballerina in blue who appears in pivotal moments, goading the characters and propelling the story to its devastating conclusion.
Adds Schergen: "Another beautiful thing in this story is that at the end of it, after the lovers die, Lord Montague (Romeo's father) says that he will raise a statue of pure gold to Juliet, and Lord Capulet (Juliet's father) says that he will do the same for Romeo. These two people realise that because of their foolishness, their children have had to suffer this tragedy, and that Fate would not allow them to escape it. Goh embodies Fate as a statue that, in essence, comes to life."
Because there have been many productions and adaptations of the story, the lead dancers of Romeo And Juliet say they have had plenty of homework to do so that they can deliver performances that match the beauty and intensity of previous definitive turns.
Senior artist Rosa Park, who plays Juliet, says: "I've read the text both in Korean and English, and I've watched movies and musicals, and tried to create my own interpretation of Juliet... I don't really know what it's like to lose a loved one, I couldn't relate to it initially, so I worked on that bit, and I watched sad movies to help me."
Meanwhile, both Park and her co-lead Chen Peng think that audiences will be delighted particularly by Goh's choreography of the balcony scene, where Romeo woos Juliet. Chen raves: "The balcony pas de deux is the most romantic part of the ballet."
Park concurs: "It's the moment when you find out the person you love, also loves you back, so it's a wonderful feeling of romantic bliss and you can't really express it in words. It's all smiles, and I think it's the best feeling one can have."
Romeo And Juliet by the Singapore Dance Theatre will be playing at the Esplanade Theatre from March 13 to 16 at 8pm, with 1pm matinees on weekends. Tickets from $30 to $70 from Sistic.