The real ‘Romeo and Juliet’

The Zurich Ballet performs ‘Romeo and Juliet’ at the Opera House.

The Zurich Ballet performs ‘Romeo and Juliet’ at the Opera House (photo credit: JUAN DIEGO)
The Zurich Ballet performs ‘Romeo and Juliet’ at the Opera House
(photo credit: JUAN DIEGO)
There is a certain suspension of disbelief when an audience watches a ballet. After all, few of us live in a world where genteel gentlemen parade around ladies wearing tiaras. Although he cannot meld the real and imaginary worlds on stage, Christian Spuck would like to present as true a story as possible.
Spuck is the artistic director of the Zurich Ballet, which will perform Romeo and Juliet at the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center later this month.
Romeo and Juliet is the first ballet Spuck created in his role at the Zurich Ballet. The story holds a special significance for him.
“Romeo and Juliet has followed me throughout my life,” says Spuck, who was visiting Israel to promote the ballet company’s upcoming tour.
A striking man with angular features and small spectacles, Spuck speaks easily and with great warmth about his work.
“When I was a boy, I went with my mother to a neighbor’s house to watch the Romeo and Juliet ballet on TV because we didn’t have our own television set,” he recounts. “The first ballet music I ever heard was Prokofiev’s score, and I still think it is the most exciting and moving ballet music that exists. When I moved to Zurich, I started to think about what piece I would create, and it felt so right that it should be this.”
Originally from Germany, Spuck received his dance training at the John Cranko School in Stuttgart.
He went on to dance with Jon Lauwers’ Needcompany and Anne Teresa de Keersmaker’s Rosas. In 1998, Spuck began choreographing. He has been commissioned to create ballets for dozens of companies around the world. In 2012, he moved to Zurich to take up the reins at the Zurich Ballet. In his role, Spuck wears countless hats, from choreographer to manager to administrator.
“There’s no school for this, and there’s no way to prepare for a role like this. You just have to jump in,” he says.
Though his days sometimes seem endless, Spuck makes a point of watching every performance of the company.
“It’s important that the dancers get feedback,” he says.
Since his arrival at the Zurich Ballet, Spuck has given the company a thorough makeover, including the addition of a new repertoire, hiring new dancers and making a change of approach.
“I tried to keep as much of the staff on board as possible. It’s very important to me to work with dancers who have something to say. Technique is not nearly as important as substance. When I look for dancers, obviously I watch them dance; but in the end, it always comes down to the heart. I ask myself, ‘Is this someone I want to work with?’” he says.
Two of the dancers that joined the Zurich Ballet in light of Spuck’s appointment are Denis Vieira and Katja Wunsche, who play the roles of Romeo and Juliet.
“When you watch them, you have to believe that they really are in love. They do a wonderful job at the dancing and the acting, which is no less important. My dancers need not to do steps but to make art, that is their job,” says Spuck.
Joining Veira and Wunsche on stage will be the additional 34 dancers of the Zurich Ballet, as well as the 14 dancers of the Junior Ballet.
For the tour, Spuck considerably downsized the original set, which consisted of a two-story house built on the stage.
“It would take 15 trucks to move that set. The new set is equally beautiful but much less complicated,” he assures.
Spuck’s take on Romeo and Juliet is candid and truthful.
“In many other dance interpretations, the story is used to make the dance look beautiful. It was important for me to use the play, which is not so light. It’s about two families at war,” he says.
The Zurich Ballet will perform ‘Romeo and Juliet’ at the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center from January 29 to February 1. For more information, visit