What many consider to be the greatest love story every told will be told through dance April 29, when the Russian National Ballet performs "Romeo and Juliet" at Bedell Performance Hall.
The story of star-crossed lovers and family feuding remains, but the famous dialogue by William Shakespeare has been replaced by jetes, pirouettes and plies. According to at least one dancer with the traveling troupe, though, the message has not been lost.
"'Romeo and Juliet' is the ultimate tragic love story of humanity," said Alexander Daev, ballet master for the Russian National Ballet. "It is highly emotional and tells a story that everyone understands. The story is ideal for classical ballet, which is a highly emotional art form."
Daev plays Tybalt, Juliet's hotheaded cousin and Romeo's sworn enemy. He answered questions through an interpreter via email.
Daev, 30, is from Voronej, Russia, and has been dancing for 20 years. He joined the professional world 13 years ago after graduating from Voronej Ballet School.
"I saw a ballet company performing in our town square when I was 10 years old and knew that was what I wanted to do," he said.
The Russian National Ballet Theatre formed in Moscow in the late 1980s as the Soviet National Ballet when dancers and choreographers from ballet institutions in the Soviet Union "were exercising their newfound creative freedom by starting new, vibrant companies dedicated not only to the timeless tradition of classical Russian Ballet but to invigorate this tradition as the Russians began to accept new developments in the dance from around the world," according to the company's website.
In the 1800s, Russia was a major center for classical ballet training, according to Dr. Marc Strauss, professor of theater and dance at Southeast Missouri State University. French choreographer Marius Petipa moved to Russia in 1847 and helped begin the classical movement that came to represent the country.
"Their tradition goes back 150 years, 160 years now, and we often see excellent virtuosity and technique," he said. "People will really get a feel for that history."
Southeast Missourians saw that excellence in 2009 when the Russian National Ballet Theatre performed "Cinderella" at the River Campus. It has entertained audiences elsewhere with "Sleeping Beauty," "Swan Lake" and "Don Quixote," which Daev said was his favorite show.
"I like the music, the choreography, the story," he said. "I enjoy watching it, but dancing in it most of all."
While Daev said he couldn't imagine being anything other than a dancer, the profession demands discipline and hard work.
"We train extensively every day and sometimes our bodies get sore in places," he said. "We have to be passionate to keep our bodies going sometimes."
He said hopeful dancers should be passionate first and foremost, but also "be very strong. You cannot be lazy," he said.
The Russian National Ballet has been performing "Romeo and Juliet" across the country and will stop in Cape Girardeau for a 7:30 p.m. performance April 29. Tickets for the show are $34 or $40 and available at the River Campus box office, by calling 651-2265, MetroTix outlets, metrotix.com or 800-293-5949.