31 July 2014 at 2.11pm | Comment on this article
Award-winning and internationally-acclaimed Royal Ballet Principal Steven McRae is a delightfully versatile performer. Whether cast as the love-struck Prince Siegfried in Swan Lake or the tap-dancing Mad Hatter in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the Sydney-born dancer rises to and excels in every challenge. But if there is one role he confesses is ‘in my blood and in my bones’, it’s the title character of Romeo and Juliet, which the ballet star learnt and first performed on very short notice.
‘I was at home on a Saturday evening and at midnight I got a phone call from [Royal Ballet Principal] Roberta Marquez’, McRae recalls of his early years as a Soloist at the Company. ‘She said: "I’m in Paris, and I’ve just done Don Quixote, but I have to do it again tomorrow, and my partner just hurt himself. Can you come and do it?"' He accepted instantly.
Despite having never danced with the ballerina, and arriving at the theatre with just under an hour to spare before curtain call, his performance was so well received that, upon his return to London, he was asked to understudy the part of Romeo. It didn’t take long for him to debut in that role: ‘The next day [former Principal] Johan Kobborg hurt himself, so that’s when my chance appeared’.
For McRae, Romeo was not just a turning point in his life and career, but also a role he feels he has made his own. ‘I had watched every single show since joining the Company, so when it came to actually doing it, I guess I knew it.’ But he attributes much of his success with the ballet to Kenneth MacMillan’s amazing choreography: ‘The man was a genius. If you let the steps do the talking, it works.’
Listen to an extended version of the extract:
This interview was recorded at an ROH Insights event in April 2013. Find out more about upcoming events