Years ago Julio Bocca stunned ballet audiences when he announced that he would retire as a dancer at 40. Good as his word, he did: now he is on his second career, as Director of Montevideo´s SODRE Ballet. This year dance lovers received a new shock: Paloma Herrera would say goodbye to the stage before she was quite 40. In both cases they said they wanted to retire in their best condition, although Bocca was very honest in saying that his body had already taken a heavy toll and that some acrobatic parts hadn´t been in his repertoire in the final years of his trajectory.
Some months ago, she gave her last performance with the American Ballet Theater, her company for 24 years, and it was apotheotic. For she had been a star performer in New York City, perhaps the most competitive in the world, and had kept her standards high throughout her long campaign.
But her definitive goodbye will be in Buenos Aires; hence the press conference which I attended. She was flanked by Darío Lopérfido, the Colón´s Director, and Maximiliano Guerra, the Ballet Director, and was presented (very well) by Mariana Arias. Her sponsor of many years, Galicia Eminent, was also present and at the end their CEO presented her with gifts.
Said Lopérfido: " The fact that Paloma will retire at our house is to do justice to an international star. I think these performances will be memorable".
Then Guerra declared, concerning "Romeo and Juliet", the Prokofiev ballet with Guerra´s choreography: "We chose it together, looking for a work that would allow her to have a true farewell. It is an honor and a pleasure that it occurs with a work of mine. We are rehearsing hard, so that her Juliet will be magnificent".
And Paloma:"I want to say goodbye with a ballet that would represent me, that´s why we chose ´Romeo and Juliet´. I am happy, it´s a wonderful work." Her speech was brief and simple, just a reference to the reasons for her decision and to her convictions about her career: discipline, ethics, hard work, and deep love for dancing. And a mention about having danced "Romeo and juliet" many times (but of course not in Guerra´s choreography!).
Then came the abundant questions. About John Cranko´s "Eugen Onegin", the ballet originally announced for her farewell: Guerra answered: the contract wasn´t signed...(one wonders why). The Germans (the Stuttgart Ballet) established hard conditions (he wasn´t specific) but it probably will be presented next year (a credible source informed me that they wanted Tatiana to be danced by one who knew the part; Paloma hasn´t done it).
Guerra on his "Romeo and Juliet": he presented it at the Argentino in 2009. He admitted a strong MacMillan perfume (it will be remembered that his choreography was danced marvelously here by Bocca and Alessandra Ferri, and was supposed to be revived during Lidia Segni´s tenure, but at the last moment was replaced, again because of disagreements: I believe that only when a contract has been signed a ballet can be included in a subscription series). He has also seen the versions of Béjart and Aráiz. A feature of his choreography is that the "corps de ballet" will dance a lot on points.
Paloma on her career: she made a tribute to her great teacher, Olga Ferri, who always said that she had to concentrate on her dancing. Paloma described herself as "superdedicated".
She was irritated when a question referred to the substitution of the ballet with which she took her leave of the American Ballet Theater in May. She said that some media had distorted the truth: the ABT wanted her to be the star on a new lavish production of "Sleeping Beauty" as choreographed by Alexei Ratmansky, but she demurred, feeling that she had to go dancing a ballet that represented her career, and asked for "Giselle" (which she did here last year). She was given what was available in their calendar, and that was a Saturday matinée: she fully agreed and felt it was one of the most joyful days of her life.
She will give master classes and launch a garment design line. But she lives from day to day, dislikes planning, although paradoxically she has always been very disciplined and professional (facts that make her valuable in institutions like the ABT). Paloma has had difficulties with some choregraphers, but she took them as steps in maturity.
She has just moved to Argentina, although she will keep liens with New York. She insisted that although technique is fundamental, it isn´t enough if you don´t have that special spark. Paloma makes no predictions about the future of the ballet.
The general impression I got was of an artist that has always been deeply in love with her profession but doesn´t intellectualize her experience; she is still simple and direct.
Performances: October 11, 5 pm; October 13, 15 and 17, 8 pm. Tickets: at the Colón, Monday to Saturday, 10 am to 8 pm, and Sunday, 10 am to 5 pm. Or on the telephone: 5254-9100. Or on Internet: www.teatrocolon.org.ar .
Twice horrid fortissimo noises from the loudspeaker interrupted the occasion; the interviewees remained unfazed.
The celebration was complemented by some splendid catering offered by Galicia Eminent.
For Buenos Aires Herald