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The Art of the Dance lecture + Romeo and Juliet [1972, Chicago, South Shore High School]

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Video Identifier: V.2011-05-0467
Run Time
0h 32m 58s
Date Produced
Ruth Page's version of "Romeo and Juliet" is set to Tchaikovsky's original score for it, with designs by André Delfau.  It was premiered in Niles, Michigan in January of 1969.

This video represents a recording of an arts lecture/performance of Romeo and Juliet at Chicago's South Shore High School, recorded in November of 1972.
The video begins with a great deal of static, followed by a washed-out shot of a stage, over which Ruth Page's voice is heard announcing the performance: "...South Shore High School, this special lecture/demonstration program: 'The Art of the Dance.' This program has come to you through the support of the Ruth Page Foundation and the Chicago Public Schools. 'The Art of the Dance' demonstrates the two most widely practiced forms of serious dance: classical ballet and modern dance. The first work you will see employs both of these dance forms. The first section of the dance shows the pure classical technqiue of the ballet classroom. Every ballet class begins as our first dance begins, with exercises at the ballet barre. Classical ballet employs a limited number of set, predetermined movements which every ballet dancer learns. These movements change very little, if at all, when they are used in works of concert dance. Notice the total control of the body that the ballet dancer must know. The second section of the first work is modern dance. With the modern dance technique, the dancer uses his body in a very natural way. The modern dancer attempts to free his body for an infinite variety of movement possibilities. You will perhaps recognize the very athletic quality of modern dance. In many respects, modern dance is very closely tied to the discipline of gymnastics. Our first dance also includes examples of some of the variations of serious dance. You will see a section for our male dancers and a section just for the girls. One section, the adagio, shows the special beauty of very slow dance. The music you will hear is that of Johann Sebastian Bach as performed by the Swingle Singers. The choreography of this first work is by Mr. Larry Long. Ladies and gentlemen, the Chicago Ballet."

Then, dancers bring out a ballet barre and begin to demonstrate standard barre exercises--three female dancers perform one combination on one side of the barre and two male dancers perform a different one on the other side. Once the combinations are complete, the video cuts to another group (three male dancers and two female dancers) that begins demonstrating 'center work' in a more modern dance style. Before long, they move toward the barre, where the first group of dancers remains, and the mdoern group continues its dance as they look on. After this dance is completed, the video cuts to show the barre group having moved to center; they begin demonstrating more ballet combinations. They then pose and the camera moves right to reveal the modern group engaging in a second dance beside them. After both groups take turns dancing, the segment ends.

Next, the video cuts to another ballet demonstration, this time of a partnering adagio by a single couple (with other dancers moving a bit in the background). A second couple momentarily enters and becomes the focus for two brief interludes, after which both couples join together for simultaneous pas de deux. Before long, all exit and two male dancers stand in their place onstage.

The two men perform an ensemble ballet dance, which is followed by a larger, five-person ensemble ballet dance by the female dancers. This is then followed by a second male ensemble, comprised of six male dancers. Next, two female dancers return, and they are soon joined by both male and female dancers for a quick partnering finale. 

The screen then blanks out before returning to the stage, whose curtain is now closed, as the introductory music to "Romeo and Juliet" plays. When the curtains part, a group of male dancers costumed as guards runs in a swirl until Romeo emerges. He dances a brief solo before being joined by a second man (Mercutio?) who, masked, appears to hand Romeo a mask as well. The two then exit together. Afterwards, Juliet appears in a long dress and dances a solo. She is eventually interrupted and greeted by another man (Tybalt?), who kisses her hand and begins to dance a pas de deux with her as the guards move to the back of the stage. As they dance, the masked Romeo and Mercutio snake their way in. Romeo, of course, is immediately taken by Juliet--and Juliet soon notices him as well. She stops to greet him mid-dance, and the two shed their cloaks to begin a pas de deux together. 

They are interrupted by a suspicious Tybalt, who rips Romeo's mask from his face, exposing him, and immediately initiates a fight. The guards mirror the fight in the background, and Mercutio joins in but Juliet soon intervenes, dancing through the middle in an attempt to calm both parties down. The attempt largely fails, however--Tybalt escorts Juliet away and an angry Romeo exits, but Tybalt returns to a still-present Mercutio. The two begin to duel, again accentuated by the guards mirroring the fight behind them. Apparently reaching a stalemate, the two separate, Mercutio bows mockingly, and all exit.

Two of the guards then enter carrying Juliet (and apparently serve as her "balcony"). Romeo appears as she declares her love for him. The guards then leave her to dance a lovesick solo alone onstage, while Romeo stands in the back, unseen and awestruck. Next, he appears in front of her and the two embrace passionately before dancing a pas de deux together. As they complete the dance and Romeo kneels at Juliet's feet, the guards-as-balcony return to take her away; he follows and kisses her hand goodbye. 

Romeo is immediately joined by Mercutio, who joins him in a brotherly dance while anticipating the arrival of Tybalt and other Capulets. The video then blanks out and cuts forward to the couple's second passionate pas de deux, which ends only when Romeo is forced to tear himself away. Juliet continues dancing solo until a hand offers her a potion, which she drinks, and collapses into the arms of two approaching guards. They lift her high above their heads and place her in the care of the other four guards, who are kneeling in the back.

Romeo then arrives and, thinking Juliet dead, drinks a potion of his own and collapses on the ground near her. Juliet then awakes and discovers Romeo, who rises to embrace her one last time. Soon, however, he falters and begins to collapse from the poison he has ingested. After watching her Romeo die, Juliet grasps his dagger and stabs herself in the stomach, at which point the video blacks out into static and ends. 
Additional Credit
Long, Larry (is choreographer)
Page, Ruth (is choreographer)
The Swingle Singers (music)
Tchaikovsky, Pyotr Ilyich (is composer)
Related Place
Chicago (production location of)