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A Script in Their Heads: Dancing Romeo and Juliet

The Louisville Ballet opens Shakespeare's timeless tragedy of star-crossed lovers this week. Alun Jones and Helen Starr return to the company to stage Jones' version of "Romeo and Juliet," which opens Friday in the Kentucky Center's Whitney Hall.“The music came into London when I was in my early twenties. From Russia. We believe it was black market, the old vinyl records,” says Starr, former principal dancer and associate artistic director of the Louisville Ballet.As a soloist with the Royal Ballet and a principal dancer with the London Ballet Festival, Starr danced many of the lead roles in classical ballets. But she didn’t dance the role of Juliet to Sergei Prokofiev’s score until 1985 – she was 45 – when her husband Alun Jones, then artistic director, choreographed his version of the ballet in Louisville. Starr and Jones are staging Shakespeare’s story of star-crossed lovers again, passing the ballet on to a new generation of Louisville dancers. They’re teaching them how to take Shakespeare’s words and translate them into body language, like the morning scene when Romeo and Juliet have to part.“We ask them to have a script in their heads, so that there isn’t a movement in the ballet that they do that does not have some form of meaning,” says Starr.The ballet is a popular part of the Louisville Ballet’s repertoire. But every production is different, Starr says. The ballet continues to evolve from year to year because new dancers fill the roles.“You begin to teach the steps, you begin to talk about the emotions, the workings, the meanings, and you watch, and you see, each one will come up with something slightly different,” she sys. The production includes more than 40 men, women and children performing extra roles alongside the company's dancers. There are three performances of “Romeo and Juliet” this Friday and Saturday in the Kentucky Center’s Whitney Hall. WFPL will air an interview with Starr on Friday.