Romeo and Juliet

by Becky Tan

 The Bad Boys of Dance have lost none of their “badness.“ They still grand jete and pirouette, while projecting macho tension across the footlights. You will remember them from their “Rock the Ballet,” which has performed frequently in Hamburg since 2009. Now they are back with a free interpretation of Romeo and Juliet – a “real” story this time – not just leaps and turns.

This time we see 10 dancers of different races: eight men and two women, all young and beautiful; R&J are a mixed-race couple. There are two acts with a total of 24 scenes including a grand finale and a 20-minute intermission. Costumes range from classical ballet tights to jeans to hippie garb; scenes range from beautiful mansions to a Rocky-style boxing ring. Everything gleams under powerful, colorful strobe lighting that sometimes points into the audience with a hint of West Side Story. The music is a mix of classic such as Vivaldi and Prokofiev, as well as pop such as “The Edge of Glory” (Lady Gaga), “Every Breath You Take” (The Police) or “Unchained Melody” (The Righteous Brothers).

This is not your typical classical ballet, although all of the participants have excelled in a classical ballet education. The dancers, as well as the founder Rasta Thomas and his wife (and choreographer of this performance) Adrienne Canterna, come from the U.S. except one dancer each from Vancouver and Australia. An exception is German Roland Greil who created the imaginative lighting. It would be easy to claim that the BB of Dance corps is indeed an American version of “Swan Lake Reloaded,” which is Swedish. True: both groups dare to mix classical with pop, but, still, their styles are distinctively different. The Swedish group presents more small intricate ballet as well as tap and street dancing, while this newest performance lives from raw energy. However, if you liked “Swan Lake Reloaded” a few months ago, you’ll definitely want to give this “Romeo and Juliet” a chance.

My favourite character was Count Paris, who seems to get the short end of the deal in the usual theatrical versions, but actually almost nabs the girl here. The best scene shows Mercutio in his death throes, after being stabbed by Tybalt – probably the best dying scene I’ve ever witnessed in dance or theater or opera –and you don’t get a chance to say that very often.

“Romeo and Juliet” runs daily except Mondays, until September 22 at Kampnagel, Jarrestrasse 20. Tickets cost Euro 32,90 to 59,90. I recommend seats in the Tribune or bleachers, starting with row 2 and going up. Call 040-47110633 or see or The Kampnagel is must-see, so take this opportunity to enjoy the atmosphere of an old factory with high ceilings – a building on a canal in Barmbek, which survived being torn down, luckily for us. It’s a perfect venue for a radical new interpretation of a four-century-old story. Shakespeare was never so alive.