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Onstage This Week: Roberto Bolle's Farewell at ABT, Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival Opens with Ballet BC, and More!

Gene Schiavone, Courtesy ABT

Wonder what's going on in ballet this week? We've rounded up some highlights.


Roberto Bolle Retires From ABT in "Manon"

American Ballet Theatre performs Sir Kenneth MacMillan's Manon this week for the first time since 2014. Inspired by the French novel Manon Lescaut by Antoine François Prévost, this June 17-22 run features a number of debuts, including four ballerinas in the title role: Hee Seo, Sarah Lane, Misty Copeland and Isabella Boylston.

On June 20, principal Roberto Bolle will take his final bow with ABT after dancing the role of Des Grieux, which he'll also perform on June 17. The Milan-born superstar has been dancing with the company since 2007, and has been a principal since 2009. While with ABT he's taken on full-length classics including Onegin, Romeo and Juliet, Swan Lake and Giselle. Bolle, who has guested with major companies worldwide, will continue to perform as a principal dancer étoile with La Scala ballet. Catch a glimpse of him in rehearsal with Seo above.

Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival Opens With Ballet BC

The 87th season of the Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival opens June 19-23 with Ballet BC. Hailing from Vancouver, Ballet BC returns to the Pillow with a program including artistic director Emily Molnar's To this day, the U.S. premiere of Bedroom Folk by Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar, and Medhi Walerski's Petite Cérémonie. Get ready; over the next two months, a number of ballet companies will hit the Pillow's historic stages.

National Ballet of Canada Presents "The Merry Widow"

June 19-23 National Ballet of Canada brings back Ronald Hynd's The Merry Widow, based on the 1905 operetta of the same name. The ballet tells the madcap story of Count Danilo, an aristocrat who is persuaded to marry wealthy widow Hanna Glawari. On June 22, longtime principal Xiao Nan Yu will dance Hanna in her final performance with the company.

Ballet Des Amériques Closes Its Season

Westchester, New York-based Ballet Des Amériques closes its 2018-19 season this weekend with two shows on June 23 at the Emelin Theatre in Mamaroneck, New York. The program features the company in both new and old works by artistic director Carole Alexis, as well as a performance by conservatory students in works by Alexis to Beethoven.

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Alicia Alonso with Igor Youskevitch. Sedge Leblang, Courtesy Dance Magazine Archives.

Her Dying Swan was as fragile as her Juliet was rebellious; her Odile, scheming, her Swanilda, insouciant. Her Belle was joyous, and her Carmen, both brooding and full-blooded. But there was one role in particular that prompted dance critic Arnold Haskell to ask, "How do you interpret Giselle when you are Giselle?"

At eight, Alicia Alonso took her first ballet class on a stage in her native Cuba, wearing street clothes. Fifteen years later, put in for an ailing Alicia Markova in a performance of Giselle at New York's Metropolitan Opera House, she staked her claim to that title role.

Alonso received recognition throughout the world for her flawless technique and her ability to become one with the characters she danced, even after she became nearly blind. After a career in New York, she and her then husband Fernando Alonso established the Cuban National Ballet and the Cuban National Ballet School, both of which grew into major international dance powerhouses and beloved institutions in their home country. On October 17, the company announced that, after leading the company for a remarkable 71 years, Alonso died from cardiovascular disease at the age of 98.

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Courtesy BLOCH

Today's ballet dancer needs a lot from a pointe shoe. "What I did 20 years ago is not what these dancers are doing now," says New York City Ballet shoe manager Linnette Roe. "They are expected to go harder, longer days. They are expected to go from sneakers, to pointe shoes, to character shoes, to barefoot and back to pointe shoes all in a day."

The team at BLOCH developed their line of Stretch Pointe shoes to address dancer's most common complaints about the fit and performance of their pointe shoes. "It's a scientific take on the pointe shoe," says Roe. Dancers are taking notice and Stretch Pointe shoes are now worn by stars like American Ballet Theatre principal Isabella Boylston, who stars in BLOCH's latest campaign for the shoes.

We dug into the details of Stretch Pointe's most game-changing features:

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Sir Anthony Dowell dedicated four decades for his life to The Royal Ballet, first as a principal dancer, and then as the company's artistic director. His monumental career is a testament to his love for the art form. That love can also be seen in this solo from a 1980 performance of Dutch choreographer Hans van Manen's Four Schumann Pieces, created for the company five years earlier. Van Manen's choreography slips in and out of pedestrian and balletic vocabulary. Dowell demonstrates his virtuosity by ascending into sublime classical shapes without an intimation of effort.

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During one of Charlotte Nash's first few weeks with Houston Ballet II, she was thrown into a run-through of Balanchine's Theme and Variations. "I had never really understudied before and I didn't know what I was doing," she says. "I fell right away and was quickly replaced." For Nash, now a dancer with Festival Ballet Providence, the episode was a tough lesson. "I was mortified, but then I said to myself, 'Okay, I need to figure out how to learn things more quickly.'"

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