On May 25 & 26, Benjamin Millepied’s L.A. Dance Project will perform a multidisciplinary adaptation of Shakespeare’s timeless tragedy Romeo and Juliet for Spoleto Festival USA. Following the Festival run, the group will travel to the Sydney Opera House for Millepied’s mainstage Australian debut. He talked about his inspiration for Romeo & Juliet Suite, ahead of these two notable performances, with The Guardian. 

The Black Swan choreographer told the newspaper, the genesis for the project was Sergei Prokofiev’s original ballet score for Romeo and Juliet, which Millepied first encountered as a 14-year-old ballet student in Lyon, France. 

“Initially I was thinking of making a [feature] film of Romeo and Juliet with Shakespeare and the Prokofiev score,” he says. As a first step, he made a short film starring Margaret Qualley, based on the balcony scene. “And as I made that, I got a taste for the music again, I wanted to do it for the stage.” 

He told The Guardian, that when he was choreographing scenes for the LA Philharmonic’s 2018 performances of Prokofiev’s condensed Romeo and Juliet Suite, he had the idea to merge performance and cinema because there wasn’t much room on the stage for the dancers. This initial experiment was a hit with audiences and critics, spurring Millepied to develop a full-length work. 

“Cinema allows that kind of magic where violence can look more real and passion can seem more real,” he says. “It’s intimate as hell, because of the camera. And actually it’s not the same as if you go see a movie – I think it has to do with the fact that you get to [see the performers dance on stage in front of you] before they become cinema characters, so there’s a deeper connection to them in what you’re experiencing [on screen].” 

This fusion of dance and cinema will allow audiences to follow the star-crossed lovers as they seamlessly transition from the Charleston Gaillard stage to screen, with the action projected live as the story plays out in unexpected locations throughout the building. 

Get tickets here for L.A. Dance Project’s Romeo & Juliet Suite, performed for the first time with live orchestra accompaniment, at Spoleto Festival USA.