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Flash Review 1, 6-3: Bye-bye Bocca
ABT Star Bows as Romeo
By Susan Yung
Copyright 2003 Susan Yung
NEW YORK -- Julio Bocca
gave his final performance as Romeo in American Ballet Theatre's
production of Kenneth MacMillan's "Romeo & Juliet" Saturday night
to a roaring, appreciative Metropolitan Opera House audience. Alessandra
Ferri, who danced the role of Juliet, joined ABT as a principal
in 1985, one year before Bocca. While they surely don't have the
youngest bones in the company, their artistic maturity packed an
emotional punch that is less developed in younger dancers.
Kenneth MacMillan choreographed
this production to Sergei Prokofiev's score for the Royal Ballet
in 1965; it was first performed by ABT in 1985. Nicholas Georgiadis
designed the sumptuous costumes and the neo-'B' movie sets. The
noble women wore gowns made of yard after yard of metallic-shot
brocade, and head caps the size of watermelons. The town's women
sported less cumbersome outfits which allowed them to do some dancing,
but they wore red afro wigs and white pancake makeup that rendered
Bocca portrayed Romeo
as if he were everybody's best friend -- a guys' guy and a ladies'
man, too. He danced expressionistically, in big bold strokes, his
roguish hair adding italics to every casually executed bravura move.
He moved comfortably between gamboling with Mercutio (Joaquin de
Luz) and Tybalt (Ethan Brown), jousting with Lord Capulet (the savory,
wicked Victor Barbee), and romancing Juliet in several duets performed
with a touching sincerity.
Ferri embodied Juliet
wonderfully -- still gamine-like, limby, with beautifully shaped
feet, airy extensions and Gumby flexibility. But these assets would
mean little if she weren't so convincingly charming, petulant, and
passionate in the role. You really felt for her when she faced the
dour prospect of marrying Paris, played with appropriate stiffness
by Gennadi Saveliev looking a bit like David Hasselhof (if you squinted).
Bocca partnered her well, lifting her easily in a backbend, or wrapping
her up in his arms like a bird.
De Luz, who lately is
one of the most prominently featured soloists in performances I've
seen, showed a large helping of charisma both in his playful (yet
eventually fatal) jousting matches, and when leading a group of
mandolin players. He's always been a technical whiz -- a compact,
allegro killer -- but his onstage personality is developing in exhilarating
ways, especially when he is not overly costumed or made up. Stella
Abrera as Rosaline, a noble, carried enough haughty sangfroid to
ensure many future stints as nobility -- let's hope it's not a trap
without a door. Susan Jones was tucked deep inside her voluminous
nurse's costume, but sweetly conveyed her sympathetic character.
The venerable Frederic Franklin made a cameo as the Friar, unwitting
expediter of the fatal finale.
Ballet is, of course,
an art and not a sport, but the increasing level of physical prowess
certainly parallels that in sports, where advancements in performance
are measured with statistics. (Of course there are certain achievements
in ballet that have become de facto stats, such as 32 fouettes,
but they're not officially tracked, as far as I know.) Bocca, who
broke ground for the current highly evolved batch of dancer/athletes,
still comports himself with undeniable power, but the standards
are simply more demanding than when he first burst onto the scene.
Bocca will continue
to dance in other roles. His relaxed earthiness and exuberance came
across even in his solo curtain calls. While most of the dancers
execute these calls with certain formality -- moving far stage left
and bowing or dipping with a nodded head -- Bocca just cleared the
pulled-away curtain, and acknowledged the applause as if thanking
us individually for complimenting him in person. With genuine humility,
several times he tried to get Ferri to remain with him to receive
the applause. He will be missed as an accessible yet convincing
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