Ballet BC dancers Brandon Alley and Emily Chessa play the lead roles in Romeo + Juliet, presented at the Royal Theatre on March 13 and 14 by Dance Victoria. Photos by Michael Slobodian

MONIQUE SALEZ: Ballet BC’s Romeo + Juliet sure to feature stunning choreography

But company missed an opportunity to feature diverse retelling of this classic tale

Dance Victoria brings some of B.C. top dancers to the Royal Theatre in March to perform a classic romantic tragedy.

Ballet BC’s rendition of Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet, to be performed here March 13 and 14, stays with the rich original score by Sergei Prokofiev, juxtaposed against a stark, minimalist backdrop. In telling this tale of polarization that destroys love, the black and white palette, imbued with contemporary dance by French-born choreographer Medhi Walerski, removes artifice and exposes divisions, inviting us to experience our own dualistic minds.

As his first full-length narrative work, Walerski’s Romeo + Juliet will undoubtedly showcase his innovative and evocative compositions, executed to the highest level of dance and artistry by the team and artists of Ballet BC.

With Walerski poised to become the company’s artistic director this July, Ballet BC president and board chair Linda Brown is “very confident that Medhi’s ambitious and contemporary vision will continue the legacy.” Yet, I must question how contemporary of a vision is contained in this retelling? What I see is another version with a white male and female lead.

In this present global awakening surrounding race, gender and the nature of non-binary love, I would have welcomed a unique casting of the two main characters. Would it not have been incredible to watch two men or two women as the leads, or an interracial couple? The beauty of this Shakespearean template is that everyone knows the narrative, presenting a perfect opportunity to be remarkable, risky and burst the safe bubble that ballet companies often reside in.

This was a missed opportunity to engage diverse communities so they have a chance to see themselves represented on stage and furthermore, provide a space where we as audience members can address our own bias beyond the Capulets and Montagues, to a deeper exploration of our own intolerance.

Romeo + Juliet plays Friday and Saturday, March 13 and 14, at 7:30 p.m. at the Royal Theatre. Tickets are available online at, by phone at 250-386-6121 or at the Royal or McPherson theatre box offices.

Monique Salez is owner/operator of Raino Dance.

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Ballet BC dancers Gilbert Small and Emily Chessa in a scene from Romeo + Juliet. Photo by Michael Slobodian

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