Roberto Bolle: An International Ballet Superstar
By Joe Alexander
I caught up with ballet's sexiest superstar Roberto Bolle while he was on a boat off Capri in his native Italy. The critically acclaimed dancer, who lives between Milano and NYC, is bringing his show "Roberto Bolle & Friends" to City Center for a one-night gala on September 17th. Bolle, who started these shows 13 years ago in Europe, said he was inspired by "Pavarotti & Friends" and hopes that he can expand the audience for ballet the way The Three Tenors helped to popularize opera. "It is the first time I'm bringing my gala to NYC and I'm really happy about that," said Bolle, who has been a Principal Dancer at American Ballet Theatre since 2009 and has held the title of Etoile of La Scala Theatre for a decade.
This year's gala highlights ten of the world's top stars including Lucia Lacarra, Jason Reilly, Alicia Amatriain, and Elisa Cabrera. The program will celebrate the "Year of Italian Culture in the United States" and feature the work "Excelsior," which hasn't been performed in NYC for over 100 years. It will also include the premier of Prototype by the Italian choreographer Massimiliano Volpin, which through new video technology will feature Bolle dancing with himself.
Roberto expressed an interest in dance from the age of five and began studying at seven. By 15, Rudolf Nureyev had chosen him to play the role of Tadzio, the beautiful boy in "Death in Venice." "Nureyev was my idol; I was shy and he intimidated me. He came to La Scala to stage 'The Nutcracker.' That meeting was important because after that I was more sure about my future." Roberto went on to dance for Queen Elizabeth, Pope John Paul II, and at the opening of the 2006 Winter Olympics, which was seen by 2.5 billion people. "I always want ballet to be a show and known by a big audience, "adding, "I would like people to consider ballet an art. We are on stage playing characters that give emotion in a story." In 2008, Bolle performed at the Youth America Grand Prix Gala in support of their international competitions. "They find and give opportunities to young talent. It is the top level in the world, the best one. You need 3 things to be a dancer, talent, passion and dedication. If you have these qualities and study at a good school, you can be a great success."
Known as a real life Apollo, Roberto reveals, "To be Apollo in life and career it means the beauty of the body. This harmony of the body has been really helpful for my career because, honestly, dancing is a lot about beauty. The quality of the movement and the harmony of the dancer and the body and face have helped me a lot because I think it's natural." In 2009, Bruce Weber photographed him for the book "Roberto Bolle: An Athlete in Tights." "Some photographers see you and want to show that you are sexy or sensual, like when working with Bruce Weber. There were some nudes, some sexy poses, some really sensual, others a bit erotic. But being sexy isn't something that I'm conscious of. I consider the book to be a masterpiece."
Roberto, who has been a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador since 1999 and has escorted Katy Perry, worked with Giorgio Armani and done advertising campaigns for Ferragamo says he would consider a role in a movie, on Broadway or an underwear campaign if it were a good fit. "I haven't had a proposal for an underwear campaign, but I'd definitely consider it. Of course," he chuckled, "The underwear campaign would be very popular." Roberto confessed, "It would be fun to have a part in a movie because it's totally different but I honestly don't think I could have a Hollywood career. I'm not an actor."
Thinking ahead Roberto confides, "On top of all this work, it's not something you're going to do all your life. At some point, even if you work hard and do everything you can, someday you will not be able to keep doing it. It's really sad and something you feel that is unfair, in a way. " Mikhail Baryshnikov is a hero of Bolle's because he says the Russian star wasn't afraid to do everything. "Baryshnikov is still performing but seriously, I won't perform at that age. I will retire earlier. At that age, I may be a director of a company, maybe in La Scala. I would like to use the knowledge and experience I have to be a director. So what I do after will be something that I like but it's not my dream job. It's right now. In this moment is my dream job." •
If you miss Roberto this month, he'll be back at the Metropolitan Opera house with ABT in May 2014.