Take 19 major dancers from 13 countries and mix them together on the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion stage. Add a heaping dose of artistry, along with a blast of modern moves and precisely paced pas de deux—and you’ve got a recipe for success.
This weekend, July 10 through 12, BalletNow will present both classic and contemporary work, performed by the best in the business. Roberto Bolle and Herman Cornejo, principal dancers with American Ballet Theatre, are serving as artistic directors, with Bolle overseeing the July 10 program featuring European dancers and Cornejo organizing the July 11 program showcasing Latin American talent. The third program, on July 12, is a combination of the two rosters.
Among the names you may recognize: Maria Kochetkova (from Russia), principal dancer with San Francisco Ballet; Paloma Herrera (from Argentina), principal dancer with American Ballet Theatre; and Viengsay Valdés (from Cuba), principal dancer with Ballet Nacional de Cuba.
We spoke with Cornejo and Bolle about bringing such a multicultural experience to Los Angeles.
What do you hope BalletNow will convey to audiences in this city, which has long been an international crossroads?
Herman Cornejo: The idea is to transport the American audience to a different part of the world, to let them enjoy traditional dance like tango as well as listen to different music repertoire without eliminating the classics. This will be a magical moment where time stops and all that matters is the energy around everyone.
Roberto Bolle: I hope to bring dance to many people who may not be ballet fans. This is what happens in Italy when I tour with my own show. Multiculturalism is certainly an advantage because it makes the program more interesting, giving the audience the possibility to see different styles and expression, which usually have to be standardized in a large company.
Why did you select these particular dancers? What strengths do they have, and what stories do they tell?
HC: The stories will be told by the audience; each of them will feel in a different way. That’s what makes ballet special. We, the dancers, tell a story with our moves, but the members of the audience put the story together in their minds and in their hearts. The repertoire chose the dancers in a way, since they are unique in what they are going to do. It was very hard to choose from so many great Latino dancers around the world.
RB: They are all dancers I have known for years and whom I respect from both a professional and personal perspective. They are principals with important European and American companies, with a recognized high standard and level of artistic quality. However, I have chosen them especially for the repertoire they are able to perform. The show starts with the Excelsior pas de deux, the best-known ballet of the Italian tradition, which has been represented all over the world. The program includes classical pieces, neoclassical, modern and contemporary choreographies of “giants” of the 20th century, such as Balanchine and Neumeier, and stars of contemporary choreography, as well as two solos with movies, video projections, and digital effects.
Are there similarities or differences between the European and Latin dancers?
HC: The similarity is that we both create art, and the differences are that we all, as individuals, have a unique DNA, which makes us all perform in different ways.
RB: There are certainly differences in the repertoire and style that are fundamental; brilliant choreographers such as Neumeier, Van Manen, or McGregor are part of the European tradition.
When did you each last appear as dancers on the stage of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion?
HC: Since I joined ABT in 1999, I have always performed here with the company, in many roles. For me this is an important step to come here as an artistic director.
RB: I have danced just once at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, in the role of Romeo while I was on tour with American Ballet Theatre, and I have a wonderful memory of that performance. I am very happy to return now with an entire show. It gives me great satisfaction and is a great way to start my “voyage into the beauty,” the theme of the “Roberto Bolle and Friends” tour that will take place after the Los Angeles engagement, which will include performances in Verona, Rome, and even Pompeii.
As artistic directors, what has surprised you the most as you have gone through rehearsals and planned this series?
HC: The budget for ballet often makes it difficult to show exactly what my ambition is, but we overcame many challenges and will present a fantastic show.
RB: I have been artistic director of the gala “Roberto Bolle and Friends” for almost 15 years, and I have been able to bring the show to some iconic Italian places, such as the Coliseum in Rome and Piazza Duomo in Milan or Piazza San Marco in Venice. These are places where there is so much beauty and incredible energy but which also have many organizational difficulties. To have a gala in an indoor theater such as the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion is a completely different thing. It gives me more confidence.