Johan Renvall, a virtuosic former principal dancer at American Ballet Theatre, died last week at the age of 55. Born and trained in Sweden, Renvall danced with ABT from 1978 to 1996. He found his niche in contemporary premieres by the likes of Twyla Tharp and Agnes de Mille, in 20th century classics like Antony Tudor’s emotive Dark Elegies, and in bravura male solos like the Golden Idol variation in La Bayadère.
In addition to his technical brilliance, Renvall’s charisma as a performer was undeniable, and it’s evident in this clip from the 1988 TV movie Dance. From the simplest tendu with a slight cambré to a tour en l’air landing in a swooping arabesque, he moves with an effortless fluidity. I love that he seems to dance from the inside out. Renvall’s graceful port de bras propels him into sailing pirouettes and soaring jetés, and he sustains the energy of every step—turn, leap or lift—to the end of each limb. During his career, he celebrated his roots with starring guest roles at the Royal Swedish Ballet and expanded his horizons with his own choreography for companies including his own touring troupe. Gone too soon, Renvall’s memory will remain as luminous as his dancing.