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Julio Bocca's Farewell
Julio Bocca's Farewell
American Ballet Theatre
Closes July 15, 2006
Monday through Saturday evenings at 8, Wednesday and Saturday afternoons at 2 p.m., $23-95
Metropolitan Opera House, Lincoln Center
Tickets: (212) 870-7695
Reviewed by Jack Anderson June 23, 2006
Julio Bocca has retired from American Ballet Theatre. The great Argentine dancer has always been both a showman and an artist, and his artistry was remarkable in four works during the company's summer season.
When Bocca joined Ballet Theatre in 1986, he immediately attracted attention with his fire and bravado, qualities that distinguished his Conrad in "Le Corsaire," May 23. This Conrad was a sturdy pirate, whose steps were sharp and steely. Yet he moved like a romantic hero, not a braggadocio; many balletgoers surely would have been happy to run off with him. He brought his own excitement to an exciting performance which, because it had Latin American or Spanish dancers in almost every leading role, was billed by the management as "Noche Latina." Together, these dancers helped make this choreographic nonsense a rousing adventure saga, and not just a corny melodrama.
At Ballet Theatre, Bocca soon demonstrated that he could do more than amaze with his prowess. His flair for characterization became evident, and it has grown with time. He now knows how to make virtuosity emotional, as well as athletic.
This summer Bocca was eloquent in a ballet with little obvious virtuosity, "Petrouchka." His bodily tensions made him eternally oppressed, and his use of his eyes was especially effective, for wherever he directed his gaze became a dramatic focus.
His Albrecht in "Giselle," June 12, proved especially powerful. Supremely confident at his first-act entrance, Bocca revealed that this Albrecht's pursuit of Xiomara Reyes's Giselle was thoroughly calculated: Albrecht was a playboy. But as events progressed, he became increasingly fascinated by and sincerely involved with Reyes's frail trusting village maiden, and soon kept reaching toward her in wonderment, as if unable to believe she was real. After her death, his steps in the second act were heavily weighted with grief, remorse, and, at last, true love. Yet when the choreography made him leap, his soaring rose like a cry from the heart.
Bocca's farewells were with Alessandra Ferri in Kenneth MacMillan's "Manon," June 19 (when I attended) and June 21. The ballet suffers from choreographic padding but, to use old-fashioned theatrical terminology, it can be an effective "vehicle" for charismatic stars, which the often-paired Ferri and Bocca certainly are. As in "Giselle," Bocca, as Des Grieux, raised emotional temperatures by carefully increasing the intensity of his movements. When Ferri pressed against him in the first act, their bodies appeared to melt, then fuse. And, in the last act, he desperately seemed to seek superhuman strength in an ultimately futile attempt to protect Manon. Bocca has left Ballet Theatre in grand style.
But he has not quite retired from dancing. He has announced that he will continue performing for a while with Ballet Argentino, the company he founded in 1990 and which has built a repertoire that includes classical and contemporary pieces, as well as experiments in blending ballet with Argentine tangos. The troupe is equally noteworthy for its personnel. Bocca is not its only attraction; more than a pretext to display its celebrated director, it also shows off other talented Argentine dancers, and Argentina has many. Bocca's vision extends beyond himself.
He is now 39, and although in the recent past he has gradually retired from certain roles, his dancing remains first-rate. Since the ballet world is sometimes appallingly youth-obsessed, some questions can be asked: has Bocca retired too early? is artistic maturity being minimized in ballet today? That first question deserves to prompt serious discussion about the second.
Bocca's retirement is his personal choice and he has said in interviews that he now wants to stay up late, watch movies, sail yachts, and drink Champagne. He deserves such fun. But the ballet community would surely love to have him back as teacher or coach.
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