ROBERTO BOLLE'S ABT DEBUT

Well, I guess it’s not literally his ABT debut since he danced Romeo and Juliet with Alessandra Ferri for her farewell performance (during which I totally fell for him). But it’s his first performance as a member of the company.

(image of Bolle dancing Albrecht in Giselle, by Damir Yusupov, taken from Bolshoi website)

(photo by Annie Liebovitz for Vogue, taken from his fan club photo stream.)

Tonight (or last night, rather, seeing as how it’s now after midnight), he danced Count Albrecht in Giselle (description of that ballet here, if you’re unfamiliar with it).

Well, as much as I loved him as Romeo, I wasn’t quite as in love with his Albrecht, especially after seeing Marcelo in this role on Monday night. Maybe I’m just not used to his style. During intermission, a friend told me he thought it was very operatic, very Italian opera, which I took to mean, very melodramatic with lots of overdone mime and emotion and all. The acting just seemed so overwrought, like he was being a danseur onstage and not a real man in love with this girl. And the weeping at her grave, the running to her body and crying over her after her collapse — it all seemed unreal. But like I said maybe that’s just another style and I’m not used to it. It is rather interesting to have people from all over the world dancing on the Met stage bringing their different aesthetics.

The man does have gorgeously long thin legs, though, and some of his jumps were downright spellbinding. And he’s also a wonderfully strong partner, lifting Paloma Herrera’s Giselle way up over his head, while she lifted her leg up in the air seemingly with the greatest of ease. They were really beautiful together, dance-wise.

When he did the jumps during the would-be -dance-to-death scene, I noticed (now that I’m completely fixated on this!) that he didn’t throw his head back like Marcelo (and from what commenter Marie says, Angel too). Rather, he lunged his upper body a bit toward the side, and very slowly, like I’ve seen the Russian men do, very Romantic-looking. And then he’d fall to the ground, but he didn’t throw himself down like Marcelo — it was just like a stumble ending in a fall. So, it was more Romantic than tragic if that makes sense. His movement was lighter and more flowing, like a wave, emotional but not so evocative of near death and inner torment and prayer for salvation.

Oh, my favorite moment for him though was when he did these continuous jumps with many many entrechats (rapid braiding of the feet). I know they’re in the choreography but he did them and did them and did them, he just didn’t stop. I really didn’t know when he’d stop. He almost didn’t. The audience went nuts. He really didn’t stop until he, as a dancer — I think, couldn’t go on anymore. So, he literally tired himself out; his Albrecht literally danced until he almost collapsed.

I liked Paloma in the lead but she wasn’t dancing with the same aesthetic; she was more human, which is perhaps why they didn’t seem a proper match (which I overheard said during intermission). I liked her mad scene — it wasn’t over the top. And she did these hops during the Wilis scene like no one else. She looked up to the sky and she jumped and jumped, and it was like a longing to return to life. It was so sad.

The only thing I didn’t like about her Giselle was that she kept clutching her heart. We all know she has a weak heart, but if you had a heart condition you wouldn’t necessarily grab at your chest all the time; you’d grab a hold of a bench or another person, etc. to keep from fainting, you’d pat your sweat-covered head, etc. There are other, more authentic signs of a problem heart.

I really liked Isaac Stappas as Hilarion. His Hilarion was still strong and angry (understandably) about Albrecht’s betrayal, but he was also vulnerable and hurt. He took Giselle’s rejection of him nobly. And his dance to death scene was heartbreaking. He kept doing those slow-motion, galloping leaps toward Michele Wiles’s fabulous Myrta with his hands raised toward her, sometimes together as if in prayer. He was really begging her to let him live.

There was only one very small thing I didn’t like about his performance: at one point, he sees Albrecht’s sword, and realizes it belongs to him. So, he turns his back to the audience and points to the castle. Too much. We know the sword belongs to Albrecht and Albrecht lives in the castle. He only needs to look at the castle, if even that.

Michele Wiles’s interpretation of Myrta is more complicated than Gillian Murphy’s I think. Michele’s Myrta initially seemed colder and more unforgiving but then I realized that was really only on the surface. When Giselle covers Albrecht in protection, Michele’s Myrta turns her back, her way of saying “go ahead, dance together, but just for a while.” And then she keeps turning around to peek at them, and, seeing them continuing to dance, rapidly turns back again, as if the only way she can let him live is if she pretends not to see that he’s there. But then she knows he’s there, so pretending to look the other way is a conscious decision to let him continue living. I like Michele’s Myrta.

Misty Copeland and Craig Salstein were excellent as the peasants — I don’t really like this pas de deux, it’s honestly a bit boring to me, but they brought everything they could to it. Kristi Boone and Simone Messmer captured my attention in the Wilis scene as Myrta’s two right-hand Wilis, Zulma and Moyna. Kristi’s so strong and her body always carries such graceful power and control, and Simone — from what I’ve seen of her at least — has this rather bewitching presence (for lack of a better term). There’s just something about her that captivates your attention.

Audience went completely mad during curtain call. There were lots of Italians in that audience, at least where I was sitting. Practically the whole orchestra rose in standing ovation while the curtain was still going down on the final act. When Roberto came out for his solo bow it was pandemonium people were cheering so loudly!

10 Comments

  1. I have been to many performances and I have never seen so many flashbulbs going off at once. It was like watching a rock star.

  2. SwanLakeSambaGirl

    Thanks for commenting, Erika. I agree! That audience was wild for him; he must be a really big star. It's exciting, I think, seeing ballet audiences go so crazy like that :)

  3. Correct me if I'm wrong but I believe Allesandra Ferri's farewell was in Manon

  4. Thank you for your review and comments on Roberto Bolle's (& company) recent performance in Giselle. I have his La Scala Giselle DVD with Svetlana Zhakarova. I'll have to watch it again to see how it compares to your description. Interesting that you mentioned “when he did these continuous jumps with many many entrechats (rapid braiding of the feet)” in Act II.” When I first watched the DVD I was particularly eager to see how Bolle performed this piece of the choreography.

    Robert Greskovic describes in Ballet 101 page 322: “Baryshnikov's Albrecht shoots through a diagonal of brise *broken” steps that cut the air like gleaming shears.He immediately travels upstage, making his turning jumps look artfully looser, signifying a loss of will and control, and then beelines back downstage with an even more intense and cutting sequence of brise movements. (Whereas) Nureyev rebounds repeatedly through entrechat-six as if his feet were possessed by the will of the ghostly sisters.” Baryshnikov is the only danseur I've ever seen perform the marvelous set of brise movements in Giselle. For more discussion on this subject: http://ballettalk.invisionzone.com/lofiversion/

    To my knowledge, the Baryshnikov/Makarova 1977 performance of Giselle has never made it to DVD. However VHS or laserdisc copies come up for sale on Amazon.com and Ebay. In my opinion (and I guess Greskovic's too) it's the definitive version of Giselle on film.

  5. SwanLakeSambaGirl

    Hi — thank you for commenting. I just checked and her final performance with ABT was Romeo and Juliet, but she may have danced Manon as her final performance with another company? Also, I think Julio Bocca danced Manon as his farewell performance with ABT and she danced with him in that. That may be the farewell performance you're thinking of.

  6. SwanLakeSambaGirl

    Thank you for all that, Sharon! I've been meaning to read that Greskovic book, just haven't gotten around to it! I will look for that Baryshnikov / Makarova Giselle — I'm so curious to see it now. I'm also going to see if I can find that Bolle DVD (NYPL used to have a lot more than it does now it seems…) — but he may have just performed differently dancing with a new partner, or something. I'm curious to see how he danced at La Scala. Let me know what you think after you watch it!

  7. Hi, Tonya,
    Great review! I saw 4 different Giselles in Ottawa in February and reported on all of them. Paloma was one of the Giselles. I actually like the way she goes to her heart to indicated that she is having palpitations. I find it most authentic. How do I know? Well, I have a heart condition myself and seizures due to another condition. When my heart starts to race or seize, my hand automatically goes to clutch it. In fact, I would never leave my heart unprotected by grabbing a table or a person or by doing anything else. The feeling is terrible and you want to kind of “hold” the heart in, keep it in place in your chest. By not touching it, you leave it open and vulnerable to more harm. At least that's the instinctive feeling I get.

    I know it would be more interesting to make different gestures, but it isn't what a person would really do. Because one has these episodes frequently, one will react the same way each time. So, I give full points to Paloma Herrera!
    Marga

  8. SwanLakeSambaGirl

    Hi Marga — thank you for commenting! It's interesting — I get palpitations too (for a minor condition I have) and when I get them I'll try to brace myself with a chair and hold my head down and breathe deeply! It might not be the most effective way to deal with them, though, I guess — it's just what for whatever reason, I seem to do. That's why I suggested she do a variety of things! Thanks for your input though because now I know everyone has their own way of dealing with it. I also don't have that serious of a condition (at least for now, knock on wood) and I don't get them very badly, and I definitely don't know what it's like to feel a seizure. I hope you're okay, and thank you for your input!

  9. Ferri did dance Manon with Bolle in her final ABT season, but her final ABT performance (also with Bolle) was Romeo & Juliet.

  10. Ferri did dance Manon with Bolle in her final ABT season, but her final ABT performance (also with Bolle) was Romeo & Juliet.

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