Preview: Romeo And Juliet, Coliseum, London

British export gets rushed off his feet
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The Independent Culture

Life is jam-packed for the British ballet dancer Douglas Lee, 31. He is dancing the role of the Count of Paris in John Cranko's Romeo and Juliet with the Stuttgart Ballet in London. This is part of the Spring Dance at the London Coliseum season, and the Stuttgart Ballet's first visit to the UK for 27 years. The company are even bringing along the ballerina Marcia Haydée, who created the role of Juliet in the premiere of Cranko's 1962 version, to dance the role of Lady Capulet.

"I have a pas de deux with Juliet – but it is more of an acting part, really. She is supposed to marry him and she falls in love with Romeo," Lee says. "I'm glad I'm not dancing Romeo, because it is quite athletic. To really enjoy it, you have to be entirely focused on the role. This doesn't leave much room to concentrate on other things."

His own new abstract ballet, Leviathan, for the Stuttgart Ballet, recently premiered as part of a triple bill, and he has been dancing in the full-length ballet Lulu for the company.

Douglas won a scholarship to the Royal Ballet School at 16 years old and, after graduating in 1996, he joined the corps de ballet of the Stuttgart Ballet at 19. "A lot of people were loath to leave London, but it wasn't such a big deal. If you are doing well in a company, it becomes your home."

He quickly rose through the ranks: he was promoted in 2000 to demi-soloist and then elevated to principal dancer in 2002. Now the eight male principal dancers in the company dance the main roles in rotation. So is the Stuttgart Ballet company one big happy family? "The workload is so intense that there is not much room for rivalry. It is such an international company that it does bring us closer together."

This Romeo, set to the Prokofiev score, was first choreographed by Cranko in 1958 for La Scala Ballet in Milan, Italy, before he fine-tuned it for his own Stuttgart company in 1962. "You don't have to add a lot when developing the characters," says Lee, "as it is all there in the Cranko choreography."

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