Peek Backstage During Roberto Bolle's Final Bow with ABT
Roberto Bolle's rise in ballet reads like a fairy tale—one in which he's the prince. At 15, he was hand-picked by Rudolf Nureyev to perform with La Scala Ballet, and by 19 he was hired into the company. Two years later, he rose to the rank of principal, and in 2009, he joined American Ballet Theatre.
"A lot of ballets remind me of Roberto," says Hee Seo, ABT principal, who danced the role of Manon in Bolle's farewell performance this summer. Although Bolle will continue to guest with La Scala, he is leaving ABT to devote more time to a festival he's building in Italy. His final role with the company had special significance: Bolle also debuted with ABT in Manon, when Italian ballerina Alessandra Ferri requested him as her partner.
On his final night with the company, fans, who had flocked to the Metropolitan Opera House to see him one last time in that iconic theater, rushed to the edge of the stage even before the curtain fell. In true farewell fashion, company members threw roses, confetti rained down, and a parade of ballet greats presented him with hugs and bouquets.
Bolle developed a reputation over the years for farewell performances. Ferri asked that he be her final Romeo in 2007, and then Julie Kent followed in 2015. That same year, he was Paloma Herrera's last Albrecht in Giselle, and he even made time to travel to the Paris Opéra Ballet to partner Aurélie Dupont when she retired in Manon. "He's always been the perfect partner," Seo says.
Bolle, who has appeared as a model in fashion campaigns, has been compared to a Greek god and a movie star. Audiences in Italy, the U.S. and beyond follow his performances religiously. Since 2013, Bolle has toured and performed with other big-name ballet dancers in his own gala, Roberto Bolle and Friends, to massive sold-out theaters.
Among Bolle's peers, he's equally admired for his humble work ethic. "A lot of things he says with his body are very clear—it's almost like a textbook," Seo says. Bolle's presence at ABT "raised the bar for principal dancers," says principal Herman Cornejo, who has also appeared in Roberto Bolle and Friends. "And, as a human being, he is one of the most respectful people I've ever met."
At one moment during Bolle's final curtain call, Cornejo and his ABT peers Daniil Simkin, Cory Stearns and David Hallberg ran from the wings to embrace Bolle from all angles. "A great gentleman is leaving," Cornejo says. From the proscenium to the last row, everyone could feel the bittersweet sentiment that ABT and New York City audiences were saying goodbye to a legend, and of course, a friend.
Dancers are understandably obsessed with food. In both an aesthetic and athletic profession, you know you're judged on your body shape, but you need proper fuel to perform your best. Meanwhile, you're inundated with questionable diet advice.
"My 'favorite' was the ABC diet," says registered dietitian nutritionist Kristin Koskinen, who trained in dance seriously but was convinced her body type wouldn't allow her to pursue it professionally. "On the first day you eat only foods starting with the letter A, on the second day only B, and so on."
Back in 2011 when Joe Lanteri first approached Katie Langan, chair of Marymount Manhattan College's dance department, about getting involved with New York City Dance Alliance, she was skeptical about the convention/competition world.
"But I was pleasantly surprised by the enormity of talent that was there," she says. "His goal was to start scholarship opportunities, and I said okay, I'm in."
Today, it's fair to say that Lanteri has far surpassed his goal of creating scholarship opportunities. But NYCDA has done so much more, bridging the gap between the convention world and the professional world by forging a wealth of partnerships with dance institutions from Marymount to The Ailey School to Complexions Contemporary Ballet and many more. There's a reason these companies and schools—some of whom otherwise may not see themselves as aligned with the convention/competition world—keep deepening their relationships with NYCDA.
Now, college scholarships are just one of many ways NYCDA has gone beyond the typical weekend-long convention experience and created life-changing opportunities for students. We rounded up some of the most notable ones:
Yvonne Rainer's Parts of Some Sextets (AKA "the mattress dance") hasn't been revived since it premiered in 1965. Nor has Rainer had any wish to do it again, to ask performers to heave 10 mattresses around while carrying out 31 tasks that changed every 30 seconds. It was an unwieldy, difficult dance. (Even the title is unwieldy.) But Emily Coates, who has danced in Rainer's work for 20 years, became curious about this piece and was determined to see it again—and to dance in it. She will get her wish November 15–17, when the mattress dance will be performed as part of the Performa 19 Biennial.
"The show must go on" may be a platitude we use to get through everything from costume malfunctions to stormy moods. But when it came to overcoming a literal hurricane, Houston Ballet was buoyed by this mantra to go from devastated to dancing in a matter of weeks—with the help of Harlequin Floors, Houston Ballet's longstanding partner who sprang into action to build new floors in record time.