A ‘gritty and urban’ 21st century ‘Romeo and Juliet’

Wherefore art thou Romeo and Juliet?

Riding Segways? Wearing Renaissance costumes that incorporate jeans, hooded sweaters and muscle shirts?

Not to mention the slight rewriting of the title of the classic work.

Alas, what’s in a name?

Swedish rebel choreographer Mats Ek has switched up the old version of Shakespeare’s tragedy and called it “Juliet and Romeo.” The Royal Swedish Ballet will present the production at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts from June 10 to 12.

The contemporary take on the timeless love story has a 21st century vibe and is filled with modern twists, including corrugated metal for a little rough-around-the-edges look.

And the score is set to rearranged Tchaikovsky orchestral works, rather than the traditional Prokofiev music.

Expect the unexpected, said Judy Morr, Segerstrom Center for the Arts executive vice president.

“It’s a gritty and urban feel that is so imaginative and creative with a very simple yet effective dramatic scenery,” Morr said. “I know it’s going to look fantastic on our stage.”

The Royal Swedish Ballet, the fourth-oldest ballet company in the world, last performed on the center’s stage more than 15 years ago with “Swan Lake.”

Ek, known for interpreting classics in daring new ways such as his productions of “Swan Lake” and “The Sleeping Beauty,” was commissioned by the company to create a modernized version of an enduring love story in honor of the Royal Swedish Ballet’s 240th anniversary in 2013.

“Juliet and Romeo” received the 2015 Olivier Award for Best New Dance Production and is currently making its North American premiere, with a stop at The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., before heading to Costa Mesa.

Morr said it’s an honor for the center to present the world-renowned ballet company, which has been gracing Sweden’s national stage for opera and ballet since 1773.

The award-winning dance troupe began when King Gustav III founded the Swedish Opera in Stockholm in the late 18th century. The king loved acting and writing plays, and a few months after the opera company’s opening, the French ballet master managed to arrange an ensemble of 30 dancers.

The company attained international fame, and over the centuries, the Swedish dancers were recognized for showcasing modern styles of movement.

Ek, the son of Anders Ek, one of Sweden’s most celebrated actors, was a dancer with Swedish contemporary dance company Cullberg Ballet, which was founded by his mother, Birgit Cullberg. In three years, Ek began choreographing for the company and became recognized for his reworks of classics including “Giselle"and “Carmen.”

After he left the ballet, he became a guest choreographer with major international dance companies, creating “Sleeping Beauty” for the Hamburg Ballet and “Appartement” for the Paris Opera.

Many of his works have been adapted for television, with two gaining Emmy Awards.

Ek specifically chose principal dancer Mariko Kida for the role of Juliet and Anthony Lomuljo to play Romeo. Both danced at the world premiere.

“It’s clear that they are beautifully trained,” Morr said of the dancers. “It’s really fantastic to have them back at the center, and it’s so exciting to see the use of imagination in Shakespeare’s traditional “Romeo and Juliet.”



What: “Juliet and Romeo”

When: 7:30 p.m. June 10, 2 and 7:30 p.m. June 11 and 1 p.m. June 12

Where: Segerstrom Center for the Arts, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa

Cost: Tickets start at $29

Information: (714) 556-2787 or visit

Twitter: @KathleenLuppi