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Choreographer Benjamin Millepied's Stunning 'Romeo & Juliet' Ballet Is Coming to Australia for the First Time

Combining dance, theatre and cinema, the suite of shows give Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers a contemporary spin.
By Sarah Ward
February 06, 2024
By Sarah Ward
February 06, 2024

"For never was a story of more woe," said William Shakespeare of Romeo & Juliet. To be accurate, he had the iconic play announce that itself in its second-last line. In the four centuries since the famed tale was first penned, never was there a tragic romance that's better known, either. Few works have been adapted and performed as much as this story of the warring Montague and Capulet families, and the heartbreak that ensues when their children fall in love — but Benjamin Millepied's Romeo & Juliet suite still stands out.

Australian audiences will be able to discover why for themselves when winter hits in 2024, when the world-famous choreographer's take on Shakespeare's star-crossed lovers will make its Aussie debut. Playing exclusively at the Sydney Opera House from Wednesday, June 5–Sunday, June 9, the ballet will fill the Joan Sutherland Theatre and other spaces with a mix of dance, theatre and cinema that defies genres, as well as a modernisation of the narrative that sees love first, not gender.

Three versions comprise the suite, each with a different couple. On the production's first night and its Saturday matinee, an all-male pairing will bring Romeo & Juliet to life. On the second evening and the Saturday night, two female dancers will play the lead parts. And on the Friday and Sunday, a male-female duo will take to the stage.

Millepied's Romeo & Juliet hails from the LA Dance Project, which he co-founded and acts as its Artistic Director. The company's ensemble will perform on the opera house's stage and also throughout the building, which is then broadcast live back to the audience inside the Joan Sutherland Theatre. So, the Romeo & Juliet suite plays with form, too — and even if you think you've seen every iteration of R&J before, this one is unique.

Bringing the ballet Down Under for the first time marks Millepied's latest project in Australia. His last: making his film directorial debut with Carmen, which starred Melissa Barrera (Scream) and Paul Mescal (All of Us Strangers), reimagined Prosper Mérimée's novella and Georges Bizet's opera, and shot in the outback New South Wales town of Broken Hill.

The dancer, choreographer and filmmaker's resume before that spans joining the New York Ballet as a teen, choreographing and co-starring in Black Swan, a stint as Paris Opera Ballet's Director of Dance and creating the sandwalk for Denis Villeneuve's versions of Dune.

"I am deeply proud of LA Dance Project, the artistic journey I've embarked on over the past decade alongside my dedicated partner Lucinda Lent and our exceptional team. The opportunity for our company to grace the stage of the Sydney Opera House is a dream realised," said Millepied, announcing the Romeo & Juliet suite's Australian debut.

"This moment holds profound significance, not only because the Sydney Opera House is an emblem of global culture, but also because Australia and its people hold a unique space in my heart. Sydney, I eagerly anticipate our reunion!"

The Romeo & Juliet suite will take over the Joan Sutherland Theatre, Sydney Opera House from Wednesday, June 5–Sunday, June 9, 2024. For more information and tickets, head to the venue's website — with presales from 9am on Tuesday, February 6 and general sales from 9am on Friday, February 9.

Read our interview with Benjamin Millepied about Carmen.

Images: Julien Benhamou, Paul Bourdrel and Josh Rose.

Published on February 06, 2024 by Sarah Ward
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