Roberta Marquez: a Juliet to die for

by Ayako Takahashi

Special To The Japan Times

The Royal Ballet, generally considered to be the best classical company in the world, numbers some 100 dancers from teens of countries who are based at its magnificent and newly refurbished Opera House home in London.

Among those, Brazilian-born Roberta Marquez has been dazzling audiences there in Covent Garden and the world over since she joined the company at its most exalted level of principal dancer in 2004.

Born in Rio de Janeiro, Marquez started learning ballet at age 4, and also practiced tap, jazz, Spanish and African dance. By age 7, though, she had decided to focus on ballet, and in 1994 she joined the city’s Teatro Municipal company. There, she was promoted to the rank of principal dancer in 2002.

Currently in her 30s, Marquez is at the peak of her technical and expressive excellence — and it is hence to the delight of Japan’s ballet lovers that she is set to dance the female lead in a production of “Romeo and Juliet” created by her Royal Ballet predecessor Tetsuya Kumakawa for his Tokyo-based K-Ballet Company. And to those fans’ great further delight, Kumakawa himself will partner her as Romeo — just as he did when the pair danced together in Tokyo in 2009 and 2011.

But ballet fans aren’t alone in being excited at this prospect. As Marquez told this writer in a recent interview, “Teddy (Kumakawa) is a very musical dancer and a musical choreographer, too. The way he uses music is just amazing, with a lot of movements synchronized to the music.

“And he is a passionate Romeo. From the first time, we had good chemistry in the rehearsal!”

This upcoming Tokyo run will be the third different version of “Romeo and Juliet” in which Marquez has danced the role of the heroine to Sergei Prokofiev’s mesmeric music. The first was a production by the legendary Russian maestro and Bolshoi Ballet principal dancer Vladimir Vasiliev (b. 1940), which she danced under his direction in Brazil at the age of 14. Then came the version choreographed by Kenneth MacMillan, which is part of the Royal Ballet repertoire.

Commenting on all three, Marquez said, “I can describe the Vasiliev version as very technical, while Macmillan’s has a rich interpretation and feeling. Teddy’s is a combination of both technical and interpretative — it’s a perfect match.”

Marquez recalled how, when she danced Juliet with K-Ballet in Tokyo in 2009 and 2011, she regarded the role as that of a very active and emotionally rich woman because, as she put it, “She is a very strong person because she decides to die for love. When I developed the character, I read books and saw the movies, but I also brought something of my life to the role. It makes everything real. I try to feel as her.”

Marquez is known for the passionate, expressive energy she brings to her performances — a characteristic perhaps not so surprising considering her background.

As she explained, “My father is Portuguese but raised in Brazil and my mother is Peruvian. They met when my mother came to Brazil to visit her older sister, who was working there. They liked each other but my mother went back to Peru.

“Then, after a few months, my father sent her an air ticket to Brazil along with a note saying, ‘Marry me.’ When he went to pick her up, she was dressed all in red!”

Marquez herself is now based in England, though she performs all over the world with the Royal Ballet and as a guest dancer such as with K-Ballet now.

“Yes, my life has become very international,” she said with a smile. “But I remember so clearly what a big decision it was to move to London. However, by leaving my family I grew a lot as a dancer and as a human being. If I had stayed in Brazil, I would be a different type of dancer.

“Now, I’m very happy, except for missing my family, because very few people can do something they really love. And my mother always comes to see my performances in London — she especially loves my Tatiana in ‘Onegin’ by (English choreographer) John Cranko (1927-73).

“In ballet, no language is needed to understand. It can take you to another planet. That’s wonderful.”

Marquez said that the graceful acting methods she learned in “the land of the theater” (England), and her passionate Latin blood, both live in her expression whether she’s performing classical or abstract works — though she says that because of her love of acting, theatrical works “bring her the most joy.”

“Every time, my dancing becomes different because I’m always changing through my experience as a dancer and as a human being and finding new things in my roles on stage,” she said.

“This time in Japan, I believe I will dance Juliet more maturely.”

K-Ballet Company’s “Romeo and Juliet” runs June 11–15 & 28–29 at Bunkamura’s Orchard Hall in Shibuya, Tokyo, and tours in between and afterward, on July 2 & 5. For details, call 03-3234-9999 or visit www.k-ballet.co.jp/performances/2014romeoandjuliet. This story was written in Japanese and translated by Claire Tanaka.

  • sb

    Uhm…”teens of countries”? Generally speaking, if it’s less than “tens of countries”, one should state the actual number.