|Bolle's curtain call, photo @Kent G. Becker|
ABT's spring season is now officially into warhorse territory. Last week we had Le Corsaire, which I reviewed for bachtrack. (In a sign of the times Le Corsaire now comes with a disclaimer in the program.) I was lucky enough to see Daniil Simkin's Ali before he got injured. Last night ABT said farewell to longtime danseur noble and uber-hunk Roberto Bolle. The ballet: Kenneth MacMillan's L'Histoire de Manon, which is actually the first ballet I ever saw Bolle dance (he was partnering Alessandra Ferri in her first "farewell").
|Bolle and Seo, photo @ Gene Schiavone|
With that being said, Bolle's farewell performance was really not all that. For one, Bolle was hampered by Hee Seo, a pretty, competent dancer who somehow manages to project nothing and generate zero excitement. The story of Manon is so tawdry that for the ballet to work one has to believe in the grand love between Manon and Des Grieux. There has to be sizzling chemistry. With Seo and Bolle there was nothing. They did all the steps, all the passionate embraces, all the desperate flailing in the final swamp pas de deux. Seo's legs and feet and extensions were beautiful. But there was about as much heat between them as there is between, uh, Donald and Melania. Seo displayed more convincing emotion when her brother Lescaut was killed. And while Bolle is still an excellent partner, his adagio solos didn't have the smoothness they had in the past.
|Abrera as the Mistress, from her IG account|
ABT's roster of character actors is strong -- Roman Zhurbin imposing and sleazy as Monsieur GM, Alexandre Hammoudi appalling as the jailer. But the infamous jailer scene in which the Jailer forces Manon to, uh, service him fell flat. I've seen Manons handle this scene different ways. Some crumple to the ground in disgust. Others seem bear it with the stoicism of someone who is, after all, a professional. Seo didn't have much of a reaction either way.
|Veronika Part and Bolle, photo @ Kent G. Becker|
Thankfully Bolle's career has been remarkably well preserved on video. In fact, there's a commercial video of Bolle in Manon at the Paris Opera Ballet that is a much stronger performance. Check it out.
|Sarah Lane and Herman Cornejo|
The chemistry between Sarah Lane and Herman Cornejo is very special. Their connection in their pas de deux covers an arc -- from the immature romance in the Act 1 bedroom pas de deux to the anger and resentment after Manon returns to Des Grieux but refuses to give up her diamonds to the desperate physicality of the final swamp scene. Cornejo like Lane is small and fearless, with an intensity that belies his boyish looks. They both are tiny dancers who dance huge. Ordinarily I'm not a fan of the extremely physical, violent pas de deux MacMillan choreographs for Manon but Lane and Cornejo made it work.
|Hoven and Trenary, from Hoven's IG|
Manon (my favorite MacMillan is actually Mayerling) will never be my favorite ballet, but overall I enjoyed this run way more than I thought I would, thanks to the strong performances from Lane and Cornejo. No one will ever match the pairing of Diana Vishneva and Marcelo Gomes but Sarah Lane and Herman Cornejo are now a close second.
And now here is a video of Bolle's farewell: