This season The Royal Ballet are bringing Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers to the stage, with a 12-week run of Kenneth MacMillan’s Romeo and Juliet. I’m super excited!
Marcelino Sambé and Anna Rose O’Sullivan are making their debut as Romeo and Juliet. And I chatted to them both, ahead of their first performance, about what it takes to form a strong partnership on (and off) the stage….
So… Let’s start at the beginning. How long have you known each other? And what were the very first roles that you danced together?
Marcelino: I’ve known Anna for almost a decade now. And I have a vivid memory of dancing with Anna for the first time at gala performance in Venice. We danced Don Quixote Act III pas de deux, on an open-air stage under the stars.
Anna Rose: I hold many fond memories of that first performance!
What were your very first impressions of each other?
Anna Rose: When I met Marci for the first time he was like a beam of light in the room. He is an incredibly kind and charismatic person. We clicked as friends immediately, and as our dancing blossomed our friendship did too.
Marcelino: I first noticed Anna’s remarkable determination and grit – and of course her sense of humour.
“It’s a special connection between two individuals, and it creates an energy that you can’t quite put into words. But you feel it when you see it.”
Why are partnerships so important in ballet?
Anna Rose: Partnerships in ballet are so important because when the chemistry works between two performers it creates something incredible on stage. I think the greatest dance partnerships are the ones that bring out unique qualities in each performer. It’s a special connection between two individuals, and it creates an energy that you can’t quite put into words. But you feel it when you see it.
Dancing on your own is fun but sharing that moment with someone else, and feeling like you’re dancing as one, is even more wonderful.
What, in your opinion, are the most important ingredients to a strong partnership?
Marcelino: Sincerity, honesty and generosity.
Anna Rose: I think the most important ingredients to make a strong partnership are trust, physical proportions and chemistry. The ability to truly listen to each others ideas – and a shared sense of humour – always helps, too!
How do you make rehearsals fun?
Marcelino: Because Anna and I have known each other for so long, we’ve become so involved in each others lives. And we tap into that in the studio. During rehearsals we’ll often chat about what colour Anna might paint her kitchen, or share relationship advice.
Anna Rose: Part of the beauty of the process is the preparation in the studio. We take our our work seriously but not ourselves. You have to be able to laugh at yourself from time to time. I think knowing each other so well helps, because we can just give each other a look and that’s enough to make each other smile or laugh.
This is your first big, principal debut together. How are you feeling? And, aside from rehearsals, how have you both got into the right mindset ahead of your debut?
Marcelino: It’s pure excitement! Although this ballet is notorious for its difficulty, we were very aware of the incredible honour and responsibility that had been instilled upon us. I read Shakespeare’s words, and tried to visualise what my reaction would be if I was in Romeo’s position. It’s a selfless tale of love and pure instinctive connection. A very human tale.
Anna Rose: Aside from The Nutcracker, Romeo and Juliet is our first principal debut dancing together. The roles are steeped in history – both in ballet and in literature – so naturally there was a huge sense of responsibility. The characters are universally known so we definitely wanted to raise our game, honour the past, and at the same time find our own voices through the movement.
I studied the text beforehand and listened to the score on repeat to visualise the choreography. We spent a lot of time together, discussing how we would feel at certain pivotal moments. There are many touching moments that have been truly thought about within the steps.
Photos courtesy of The Royal Ballet