Juliet at 53: Prima ballerina Alessandra Ferri defies all odds

Su Jin Jang, Oct. 19, 2016, 9:51 a.m.

Defying all odds, at the age of 53, world-renowned Italian prima ballerina Alessandra Ferri is still not ready to hang up her ballet shoes. After deciding to return to the stage after a five-year absence, the dancer is in Seoul to re-tackle one of the world’s most beloved and iconic characters -- Juliet. 

The former Royal Ballet dancer will be hitting the stage alongside American Ballet principal dancer Herman Cornejo and the Universal Ballet Company in its upcoming production of Kenneth MacMillan “Romeo and Juliet,“ which will begin Saturday.

MacMillan’s version of “Romeo and Juliet,” still hailed as one of the Royal Ballet’s signature works, was first staged in Korea by the UBC in 2012 to rave reviews. In commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare this year, UBC has decided to restage the dramatic ballet. 

Ferri will be tackling her famous role alongside Cornejo as Romeo, who is nearly 20 years her junior. However, despite her advanced age for a ballerina, she says she is no longer bogged by fear. 

“I think when I decided to stop dancing, there was an element of fear,” said Ferri, during a press conference held at the Universal Art Center in Seoul on Tuesday. 

“We all buy into what people are going to think about us. … So I started to feel a little bit insecure about myself, so I decided to stop,” she added in explaining what led to her decision to retire in 2007. “But I am no longer afraid about what people think.” 

The veteran ballerina has not only performed the role of Juliet countless times in her illustrious career, Ferri has also had the privilege of working with the late MacMillan, who considered the ballerina one of his muses. 

“I’ve been very lucky because I worked with MacMillan from the first day when I did my first Juliet at the Royal Ballet,” she said, adding that during rehearsals the choreographer tended to remain very quiet. However, when he did speak, “it was a revelation.” 

“I remember he once said to me, ‘You know darling, you must never be afraid to be ugly on the stage,’” she recalled. “And I knew what he meant by that. … When you cry, when you die, don’t worry about trying to look pretty while doing it. … It should look real.” 

MacMillan’s rendition of “Romeo and Juliet” will be staged at the Seoul Arts Center’s Opera Theater for one week from Oct. 22 to 29. Ticket prices range from 10,000 won to 120,000 won. For more information, call 070-7124-1737.

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