Every staging of Goh Choo San's Romeo And Juliet is a deeply personal journey for Janek Schergen, artistic director of Singapore Dance Theatre.
Schergen was bosom buddies with choreographer and dancer Goh, who died from an Aids-related disease in 1987 at the age of 39.
Schergen, 61, says of Goh's interpretation of Shakespeare's tragedy: "I can see him in little places everywhere."
The company will open their 2014 season at the Esplanade Theatre on Thursday with Goh's only full-length ballet. This is their third staging of Romeo And Juliet, which is set to a score by Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev. Chen Peng and Rosa Park will dance the roles of the ill-fated lovers.
Schergen and Goh first met in 1976, at an after-party of a performance by the Pennsylvania Ballet, of which Schergen was then principal dancer. At that point, Goh was the resident choreographer of the Washington Ballet.
Schergen reminisces: "Our friendship grew gradually, but it was very tight. What we used to say was that we were twin brothers born of different mothers, because there was no other way to explain how close we were.
"He was the most important person in the world to me, more than family."
The familiarity which was forged between the two helps Schergen with the staging of his friend's work. He explains: "It's like a language and I speak it fluently. I'm so used to doing his choreography."
Schergen also says that what made Goh's choreography unique was that "Choo San's movement is very mercurial, it's very fast. He moved very clearly and he had very definite ideas".
He adds that the ballet is significant to both the company and Goh, even though Romeo And Juliet was first created for the Boston Ballet in 1984.
He explains: "This is really a Singaporean's choreography... it might not have been made for this company, but this is where it belongs, and I feel that really strongly. We do it better than anybody can do it because we understand the person who created it.
"None of the dancers has met Choo San, but I've explained him to them and from doing his ballet, you can know the person, you really learn a choreographer's personality through his ballets."
The ballet was also a significant one for Goh, as the Romeo And Juliet film choreographed by Leonid Lavrovsky was one of the things which inspired him to become a dancer.
Schergen says: "When he was a student here in Singapore, he saw that famous film of Romeo And Juliet with famed Russian ballerina Galina Ulanova, and he and his sister Soo Kim would go and see it over and over again.
"I think that was part of the reason why he became a dancer. For a teenager, seeing a famous Russian ballet with these famous Russian dancers was transporting for him."
ROMEO AND JULIET
Where: Esplanade Theatre
When: Thursday to Sunday. Thursday to Friday, 8pm; Saturday, 1 and 8pm; Sunday, 1 and 7pm
Admission: $25, $17 (concession for students, senior citizens and The Arts House members). Early-bird discounts and group prices available
Info: $30, $50 and $70 from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to www.sistic.com.sg)
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