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Dancer Talks About His Stabbing During A Performance

May 18, 1988

ATLANTA (AP) _ An Atlanta Ballet dancer recuperating from an accidental stabbing during a performance of ″Romeo and Juliet″ said he still believes real swords and knives should be used in the production.

″You need it for effect,″ said Richard McLeod. ″It makes you pay attention a lot more, because you realize there is that element of danger, and if you don’t do what you’re supposed to do, you could get hurt.″

Ballet officials also defended the use of real weapons but said they would not try to repeat the stabbing stunt that left McLeod with a punctured lung during Friday night’s performance.

A protective shield had been sewn into McLeod’s costume so he could be dramatically stabbed in the back with a 3-inch serrated knife. But the shield had shifted out of place.

″Usually, (dancer George Prieto) stabs me and leaves the knife in there. But he said he felt something was wrong, and he pulled it back out - and I fell on the ground,″ said the 20-year-old McLeod, who is recovering at Georgia Baptist Hospital.

Atlanta Ballet President Kenneth T. Hertz said the clinking and scraping of real swords is a vital part of a ″major league″ production.

″There’s nothing that can really duplicate that sound,″ he said. ″The performers can really go at it a little bit more strongly, because it’s equipment that was designed for that, not equipment that was designed to look like it was designed for that.″

Robert Barnett, artistic director of the ballet company, said it is commonplace for dancers to use real swords. But, he said of the stabbing scene during the ballet by Sergei Prokofiev, ″We’ll never do that sort of action again, because it’s just not worth taking the chance.″

Tom Pazik, who choreographed the production, said he will change the stabbing scene if he stages the ballet again, probably using a retractable blade.

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