Romeo and Juliet, Royal Opera House, London


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The Independent Culture

Juliet is one of the most coveted roles at the Royal Ballet. Melissa Hamilton, a light, fleet soloist with a sweeping sense of movement, made a promising debut. She's still feeling her way into the drama of Kenneth MacMillan's ballet, with her most touching moments coming through the dancing. When Hamilton arches back over her Romeo's arm, her lavish backbend gives the moment eagerness and ardour.

Juliet is the heart of MacMillan's production, which goes from brawling street scenes to passionate pas de deux. His teenaged heroine is desperately young: nervous of walking on to the dancefloor at her first ball, stroppy enough to jump into bed and pull the covers over her head during a family argument. Playing with her nurse, Hamilton bounces on to pointe with giddy innocence.

Her first meetings with Romeo, danced by the experienced Edward Watson, are quieter. Hamilton needs to move to be expressive. She doesn't make much of the hungry staring in the ballroom, though she gives a lovely start when Romeo first touches her: her Juliet hadn't expected it to feel like that.

The big duets show off Hamilton's flowing lines. There are some rough edges in the partnering: Watson was a late replacement for the injured Rupert Pennefather. Hamilton's acting gains in strength in the last act, as she defies her family. Forced to dance with Paris, she rises on pointe and floats away from him. Hamilton's sharp feet draw her away with absolute, expressive certainty.

This revival is in strong shape, with exuberant dancing in the crowd scenes and distinctive performances from the cast. Watson's Romeo shows a fine sense of camaraderie as his Romeo larks around the marketplace. Having fallen for Juliet, he's no longer interested in Sian Murphy's vivid harlot. His goodbye forehead kiss – which many Romeos make saintly – is teasing, two friends coming to an agreement.

Ricardo Cervera is a speedy Mercutio, with delicate malice to his dancing. His confrontations with Thomas Whitehead's bluntly vicious Tybalt are superbly timed, a clash of personalities riding on the rhythms of Prokofiev's score. Fatally wounded, Cervera's Mercutio refuses to lose control, making his last jokes with focused anger. Kristen McNally is a good-humoured, exuberant Nurse, with Christina Arestis an elegant Lady Capulet who plunges into fierce, ritualised grief.

In rep to 31 March (020 7304 4000)