To convey the characters' roughness, Morris taught his dancers a vocabulary of historical hand poses. "I figured instead of a ballet mime to tell the story, that a rustic, Italianate kind of gesture language would be more appropriate—since you don't talk in a dance, you talk in plays. So instead of the 'beautiful princess must die' kind of ballet mime, this is more like 'I'm going to kill you and your whole family.'" Though he won't specifically define the gestures depicted here ("The whole point of a dance is that it's not literal narrative," he explains), Morris doesn't anticipate audience members having any trouble reading them (if you do, see the answers below). "They're ancient gestures that Sicilians, Italians, Neapolitans have been doing for many centuries—and a lot of other people, too," he says. "Fuck you means 'fuck you,' right?"
Mark Morris is envisioning Romeo and Juliet a little bit differently than you're used to. For one thing, the star-crossed lovers don't die in his ballet, which is set to a recently unearthed Prokofiev score that calls for a happier ending. The other difference is how the warring families are portrayed. "The thing with Romeo and Juliet is that it's very often done with a huge difference between the two families," Morris says, "like they're color-coded or they behave very differently. I don't think that's the case. You wouldn't necessarily know who was on your team until your found your dog dead on your doorstep or some ghastly sign."