Romeo And Juliet, Royal Opera House, London

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The Independent Culture

Juliet is 14, Guillem 41. Does that matter? Guillem's energy and personal beauty make her a heroine, while the vividly drawn stage relationships show us Juliet's vulnerability within the powerful Capulet family. There have been rumours that these will be her last Romeo performances. People said that last time, too. Yet it's true that Guillem's relationship with the Royal Ballet, where she has been a principal guest star since 1989, is changing.

She gave up the 19th-century classics some time ago, restricting her repertoire to a few dramatic heroines - Manon, Marguerite, Juliet - and modern works which make few demands on her classical technique. It's becoming harder to see where she fits into the Royal Ballet. Yet I've never seen her look so much at home with her host company as she does here, or so good. She has been a semi-detached guest - putting in her sky-high leg extensions, leaving her torso stiffly upright rather than flowing with the music. She fudged some pointe work this time, but otherwise sticks closely to Kenneth MacMillan's steps with an impulsive, lively performance.

In the balcony scene, she's carried away in MacMillan's flowing, surging choreography. She also remembers the threat of her watchful family. Turning away from Massimo Murru's Romeo, she looks back to her balcony. Then she returns to Murru, decision made. In the tomb scene, this Juliet hadn't realised that stabbing herself would hurt so much. She leans back against the stone of the Capulet vault, as if winded, before crawling painfully back to Romeo.

Murru, replacing the injured guest star Nicholas Le Riche, makes an underpowered Romeo. His dancing is untidy, poorly centred. Juliet really would be better off with her parents' choice: Rupert Pennefather is a charismatic Paris, carrying himself with authority.

The company performance has gained momentum since the first night. The market-place bustle has more energy, the ballroom dances have more sweep.

In repertory to 10 April (020-7304 4000); Guillem dances Juliet again on 7 April

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