Friday, June 21, 2019

ABT: Manon with Roberto Bolle's Farewell

Ballet farewells are for the cognoscenti. Those that have followed the career of an artist, and want to make sure they have a last look at him/her before the end. For the rest of us, it's a matter of dealing with the fact that one missed a lot. Especially when it comes to the retirement of a great, beloved artist. This season it was Roberto Bolle's turn. After joining American Ballet Theatre as a principal in 2009, last night he gave his last performance with ABT in Sir Kenneth McMillan's Manon; the role of Des Grieux being one of the staples of his much-admired career. The magnificent Hee Seo was his Manon, and the ever-popular American dancer James Whiteside danced the role of Lescaut.
This was my first time at this ballet, and as the evening progressed I had to fight the absurd thoughts of comparing this work to the Jules Massenet opera, which I don't know very well, or Giacomo Puccini's take on the Abbé Prévost's novel which I have never read. Also, not having followed the career of Mr. Bolle I was totally unprepared for last night's evening. To be honest, I usually like to do my homework before a performance, but I only learned of the gala the night before, and I wanted to be there. Why? Because many times, in such events filled with so much emotion an artist can touch greatness. And, I believe it happened last night. Yes, the buzz in the audience was there, and the fans and the cognoscenti were evenly spread around the house, but all of that aside, reflecting just on the performance, it was a great evening of dance. Mr. Bolle couldn't have done better. It's what happens when an artist decides to call it quits while he's still at the top of his game following the dictum for retirement: "Don't stay too long!" Of course a dancer reaches the end when the rest of us are still fledglings at our professions. I'm glad that Mr. Bolle chose to go out when he did. He left the limelight with one of those bangs that people will be talking about for years -- that's what I mean by touching greatness.

Of course, following the wild standing ovation there were the customary tributes by colleagues past and present. I offer the above video, in case you were not in the house last night, so you can share in the glory of the evening.

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