Photo: Michael Hoh Photo: Michael Hoh

Mon 10.06.2019 Michael Hoh

»It's like coming home«

The end of the season is approaching fast, but we still have five performances of John Cranko's »Romeo and Juliet« coming up at Deutsche Oper Berlin. We talked to Reid Anderson, former director of the Stuttgarter Ballett and Cranko student, about the masterpiece.

What distinguishes John Cranko's »Romeo and Juliet« from other versions?

He was strongly influenced by the Russian production he saw in London in the 1950s. However, John was truly a storyteller. He created ballets for his audience not for himself. He wanted it to be theatrical and comprehensible. It was very important to John. Imagine, you arrive late to a performance. You don't have time to buy a programme. You sit down, and the lights go out. According to John, the audience has to understand everything that's happening on stage.

Can you think of a scene that perfectly translates from Shakespeare's original text to movement?

John was a true Shakespeare fan. He knew the piece by heart. At the beginning of the balcony pas de deux, when Romeo truly sees Julia for the first time – "What light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun." – You can see that. Every time, I see it, I think, yes, this scene is spot-on.

The ballet celebrated its premiere in 1962. Has it changed since then?

Yes, technically the dancers are more advanced than we were back then. However, it's my job to add the "why": why do we do this? Why is that? All movements have to be natural, but they also have to mean something. Choreographically, it's different, but here [he points to this heart], we try to do it just like we used to when John Cranko was still alive.

Is John with you when you stage his work?

He is always with me. Stuttgart, John, the Stuttgarter Ballett, his choreographies, that's my life. I grew up in Stuttgart. I was still a boy when I came to Stuttgart. John was very open; he often talked with us. He influenced my worldview. John taught me what art is, good food, salted butter and delicious bread. John was a catalyst for me.

What is special about the Berlin version of »Romeo and Juliet«?

It's like coming home. Many dancers have been here since Vladimir Malakhov. They came out of our school, John Cranko's school in Stuttgart. And many dancers with whom I've worked over the years, are now ballet masters here. It's comfortable, like wearing an old sweater. And that makes my work much easier, of course, because I'm relaxed, and they are relaxed. And then we can make progress much faster.

Also, it's a United Nations of Ballet here in Berlin. So many different nationalities; so many different languages. But everyone will understand what we're doing. We don't necessarily speak German, English or French. However, we all speak the same language when we enter the studio, and that's body language. It's a very beautiful language, and very quiet to begin with.