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33 days to go

Romeo and Juliet includes 52 linked musical numbers. Number 33 is the music that accompanies Mercutio's fight with Tybalt.

Romeo and Juliet is primarily about the youngest members of the cast, Juliet, who is only 14 in Shakespeare's play, Romeo, and his two friends Mercutio and, to a lesser extent, Benvolio.

The role of Mercutio, although not nearly as large a role as Romeo, the principal male, is still normally danced by a Principal dancer, or a Soloist (the rank below Principal). It requires great skill in acting, and numbers 33 and 34 in the ballet are Mercutio's starring scenes.

During Act II, he gets into an argument in the market place with Tybalt, nephew of Juliet's father, Lord Capulet. The disagreement doesn't start out too seriously, but is eventually fatal. In Kenneth MacMillan's version of Romeo and Juliet, Tybalt accidentally kills Mercutio, rather than doing it in cold blood. Mercutio then has a lengthy scene all to himself (No.34) in which he dies. The scene is long and it takes great acting skill to maintain the drama and make the death look convincing.

Ballet has always required some level of acting skills. Some examples stand out, such as the mad scene in Giselle. Romeo and Juliet requires good acting from all members of the principal cast including lesser characters such as Friar Laurence, and Lady Capulet, who must mourn Tybalt's death at the end of the second act.

Friar Laurence and Lady Capulet are examples of what are known as character roles. These roles are often performed by more senior members of the Company, and often require little or no dancing, but greater acting skills. In classical ballets such as Swan Lake or Giselle, ballet mime, a complicated series of hand gestures, is used to convey some of the story and the interaction between the characters. In Romeo and Juliet, MacMillan replaces much of this with more realistic gestures, making the characters seem more human and easier to relate to.

To find out more about Romeo, Juliet and the relationship between their two families, click on The story of the ballet in the index to read the on-line storyguide.

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