DANCE / Truly, madly, deeply: Romeo and Juliet / Dance Workshop Europe, ROH/The Place

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The Independent Culture
THEATRICAL wisdom has it that the greatest Juliets are played by older women - only with maturity comes the art to portray those lacerating emotions, that poignant struggle between desire and fate. Monica Zamora may not be 14, but she's a novice ballerina still - and the Juliet she danced last week gave the lie to old saws. What you marvelled, and wept, at was not the skill of an artist recreating a young girl's passions, it was the suffering of what seemed, truly and artlessly, first love and first pain.

Detail after detail in her performance opened windows on to MacMillan's familiar ballet. When the still innocent Juliet sat obediently with her mandolin at the Capulet's ball, Zamora's body remained passive, even virginal while her dark awakened gaze greedily devoured Romeo's face. After the lovers' first serious kiss, she stood motionless, zapped, with just her fingers twitching in baffled ecstasy.

Even in the most technically intensive choreography Zamora's dancing seemed spontaneous with feeling and intent. And Joseph Cipolla as an infatuated, and infatuating, Romeo was wholly tuned in to her ardour, handling her expertly though the long swooney pas de deux even while letting a rough impatience break through his lover's reverence. During Act III there were moments where it looked as if Zamora might be playing safe - where the lovely artfulness of her dancing and her mime briefly registered. But her terrible silent howl of anguish when Juliet discovered Romeo's dead body came straight from her gut, and hit you in yours.

Promoting new dance talent is a safer bet than investing in young choreographers - and it's hard for most fledgling dance makers to get a platform for their work. Dance Workshop Europe was set up two years ago to help redress that balance. Under its banner four countries have co-produced four choreographers' work and are presenting the results at selected European venues. The tour came to London last week and on that showing, two of the works at least carried the buzz, and the promise of new ideas.

In terms of the current European scene Veerle Bakelants' trio for three women was the most radical, in that she took an entire classical score (Richard Strauss' Piano Sonata No 5) and used it to structure the choreography rather than let the music spool arbitrarily alongside. Bakelants' language too was unusually dancey. You could spot the influence of senior Belgians such as Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker in certain falls and turns, and in the sense of angry unformed emotions welling up through the dance. But these qualities were given shape and texture by fluid, sculpted phrases and by clear and spacious grouping - as if Eurocrash was emerging into a new classicism.

The German choreographer Urs Dietrich created a tender and quizzical duet for himself and dancer Thomas Stich. With both men dressed in identical linen suits, and with the sound of bird song cheeping in the background, it first evoked some elegant male arcadia. Dancing in total unison the men established a magical if slightly questioning bond, which then expanded to include some ritual scuffling and competition. Aggression surfaced, retreated then intensified through a bizarre confrontation over a tableful of toy birds - but it was contained and explored through dancing of deft, unexpected accents, quirky images and eloquently controlled lines.