BWW Reviews: Roberto Bolle And Friends Gala
That Roberto Bolle is the body beautiful, not to mention gorgeous, extraordinaire, beyond belief, is not to be questioned. If he took just one step to the right, you might call it exploitation or something closely resembling that. Mr. Bolle, wisely, did not take that slippery path. He remained an amiable, charming and silent host to the evening that bore his name, Roberto Bolle and Friends Gala. So, if he did take every opportunity to present his buff technique, there was nothing to do but sit back and enjoy it, or carp frequently at what was going on.
Personally, I like Mr. Bolle with his clothes on. Did you see him in Onegin and A Month in the Country during ABT's spring season at the Met? Here was a dancer with undeniable authority, presence and sensitivity. That this was not on display Tuesday night is to Mr. Bolle's discredit. Skin is great, but so are your technique, versatility and the ability to perform in outstanding choreography.
Now to the program. How was it? As the old adage goes, a mixed bag. Or a matter of the glass half empty/half full: intermittently enjoyable, mostly dull. I have to hand it though to Mr. Bolle. He gave the best choreography of the evening to Herman Cornejo, whose technique and stage presence can only be described as beyond my highest expectations.
The evening began with the pas de deux from Excelsior, a work I had never seen before. To call it tacky is too kind. Danced by Alina Somova and Roberto Bolle, outfitted in the first of his skimpy costumes of the evening, this is a display piece for two virtuosos. Ostensibly chosen, I imagine, for its Italian relationship to Mr. Bolle's home country, it was painful to watch. I'm sure that there was something else that could have been chosen as a curtain raiser. This was definitely not it.
Not to sound churlish, there were excellent performances by Alicia Amatriain and Jason Reilly in the balcony scene from John Cranko's Romeo and Juliet. Cranko's reputation has never been held in high esteem in the United States. I don't agree. I find it character driven, emotionally nuanced and dramatically involving. While Mr.Reilly performed with great passion, it was Ms. Amatriain who stood out. Here was an artist who understood that Juliet is not a maiden on the fast track to doom, but one thoroughly besotted with youthful love.
So it was a big surprise to see her change personas at the end of the first act when she danced a highly comic role in Christian Spuck's Le Grand Pas de Deux. What a turn- around from Cranko! Although Mr. Bolle danced with her, he had no chance to shine. Ms. Amatriain never crossed the border to mugging and overplaying. She was self-contained, relaying every joke to the audience by means of subtle characterization. It's rare that we see a dancer as comfortable in comedy as she is in drama. As far as I was concerned, she was the find of the evening.
The two big highlights of the evening were Twyla Tharps's Sinatra Suite and George Balanchine's Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux, for the very simple reason that Herman Cornejo danced brilliantly in both. Twyla Tharp's work now seems overly long and sluggish, while the Balanchine never pales. Although Luciana Paris was an able partner in the Tharp, and Maria Kochetkova a sometime pushy one in the Balanchine, it was Cornejo, accomplished in dramatic flair and technique, understated yet confident of his abundant talent, who delivered the goods, as it were. Perhaps Mr. Cornejo will present his own gala in the future. If he does, maybe he can be persuaded to dance Balanchine's Sylvia Pas de Deux.
It's hard to be fair to other choreographers, since everything palesbeside the Balanchine work. But I would like to put in a word for that old Fokine chestnut, The Dying Swan, danced by Alina Somova. This work, much loved, much imitated and parodied, can seem like an old relic, redolent of the scrapbooks you haven't looked at in many years, but, when performed with restraint and dignity, it can still be as potent as it was over 100 years ago. Ballet birds come and go, but this one is never going to fly away.
I could write more at length about the other performances and choreography of the evening, but I will stop here. It's not that I don't want to praise the dancers, I do, but this kind of gala evening leaves me depressed. I know that it's a night for the producing artist to strut and bring on members of the dance court as his guests but,for all of Mr. Bolle's flashing, flesh, or even Mr. Cornejo and Ms. Amatriain's artistry, what was the purpose behind this? Perhaps Mr. Bolle will e-mail me with his answer.
Photograph: XChanges vfx