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Tragic tale hits Morinville stage

Ballet company puts original spin on Romeo and Juliet

By: Anna Borowiecki

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Feb 05, 2014 06:00 am

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Romeo and Juliet
Ballet Jörgen
Friday, Feb. 14 at 8 p.m.
Morinville Community Cultural Centre
9502 – 100 Ave.
Tickets: $30/adult; $25/seniors; $10/ students. Call 780-420-27157 or purchase online at

Romeo and Juliet is perhaps Shakespeare’s most popular tragedy, a story of timeless love and innocence that woos any audience.

And now Toronto-based Ballet Jörgen brings this nostalgic story of star-crossed lovers to the Morinville Community Cultural Centre on Friday, Feb. 14.

Company founder and choreographer Bengt Jörgen’s interpretation remains faithful to Shakespeare’s storyline and characters, and is set to Sergei Prokofiev’s definitive score.

“Our core work is to tell stories in a classical ballet medium. We reach a broader demographic and go to different communities, and make sure everybody has access to ballet. Our ballets look like ballet but they feel like theatre. This (Romeo and Juliet) is a classical production with a sense of timelessness,” said Jörgen.

The story begins with the smell of a rose and the prick of thorn, Jörgen noted and continues as the boy-meets-girl love story unfolds. As the teenage couple falls deep into the euphoria of love, their respective Montague and Capulet families appear to heighten the background hostilities.

The choreography captures the delirious passion of two adolescents, the spiteful quarrelling of the families, and the final despair of lovers facing life without each other.

The dance troupe arrives in Morinville with 16 dancers. Hiroto Saito stars as Romeo and Sariya Abilmajineva as Juliet.

About an additional half-dozen dance students from the town will be auditioned and selected to perform a variety of small character roles.

Jörgen first started the company in 1987 with a small staff and a major focus on efficiency. The troupe was designed as an outlet for original choreography.

As he explained, at that time Canadian ballet companies preferred to use sure-fire choreographies that had stood the test of time. They were simply less risky and expensive.

But the art form was stagnating without an injection of new works, and he was one of the younger choreographers that gambled the public would embrace his concept. It did.

Through the decades, Ballet Jörgen has accumulated 200 ballets in its repertoire. Lately, it creates about 20 works a year – some small, others major choreographies.

If success is notched by bookings, then the company has hit the top tier. Last year, it performed at 673 events with audiences reaching 50,000 coast-to-coast.

Romeo and Juliet, a choreography that highlighted Ballet Jörgen’s 10th anniversary, is a two-hour classic that elicits a romantic “jewel-box” ambiance.

“Traditionally, a story is defined by the musical style. Romeo and Juliet speaks more to the emotional side than the intellectual side.”

Jörgen’s training laid much of the foundation for his present success at communicating with audiences.

Trained at the Royal Swedish Ballet, he completed graduate studies at Canada’s National Ballet School.

“I wanted to find a place where dance stands on its own two feet. In Europe, often there were more people on the stage than in the audience. There ballet is an institution that exists and is heavily subsidized, so you don’t have the same commitment. Here we are much more vibrant in what we do. If people don’t like it, they don’t come, so we have to work at building relationships.”

Recognized for innovation, beauty and humour, Ballet Jörgen has discovered a unique key to success. But ultimately, it’s all about the ballet.

“It’s such a beautiful and compelling art form. You have beauty and grace, but also down to Earth humour. You can expand on any emotion and it gives a great sense of entertainment value.”


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