Marcelo Gomes' clean technique, skilled partnering and magnetic stage presence make him one of the world's most versatile and in-demand male dancers of his generation. This year saw the principal dancer celebrate his 20th anniversary with American Ballet Theatre, a company he joined at just 17 years old. Coinciding with this milestone was the release of the feature length documentary Anatomy of a Male Ballet Dancer, created by the two-man team David Barba and James Pellerito—who actually approached Gomes via Facebook. The documentary, which was seven years in the making, has been making the film-festival circuit this year, most recently August 6 at the Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival.
The film combines intimate interviews with backstage and rehearsal footage and archival video. It focuses on Gomes' skill and prowess as a partner and includes interviews with some of the world's top ballerinas including Diana Vishneva, Polina Semionova and Misty Copeland.
The prohibitive cost of filming ABT at Lincoln Center and other U.S. venues meant that the filmmakers needed to be savvy; they instead took advantage of Gomes' impressive touring schedule, filming him in cities including Athens, Saint Petersburg, Tokyo and Rio de Janeiro. They captured the hectic life of a touring artist, from finding an appropriate a costume to dancing with a ballerina he has just met to performing on a steeply-raked stage. While the film shows the glamour of onstage life, it also captures the pain that accompanies it, from swollen ankles to ice baths and physiotherapy—we see just what is required for Gomes to get though a performance.
We also observe Gomes as an aging dancer. He admits that "classical roles have a deadline—the career is short." In the film, Gomes gives a bittersweet farewell to the demanding role of Solor in La Bayadère, partnered by Vishneva in Tokyo.
Anatomy also focuses on Gomes' early life and family, in particular his close relationship with his mother. (We see fantastic footage of him as a young dancer.) A constant theme which runs through the film is the more troubled relationship with Gomes' absentee father, who has not travelled to see his son perform in New York City for over 10 years.
While the film looks at Gomes' prolific work as a guest artist, it does not touch on his collaboration with non-traditional companies such as Matthew Bourne's New Adventures. Gomes has performed I Bourne's Swan Lake and Carman, and is due to join their U.S. tour of The Red Shoes this fall. His willingness and ability to work with contemporary companies such as this is a unique trait of this versatile dancer.
There's no news yet as to whether Anatomy of a Male Ballet Dancer will be in wider release in theaters or available on DVD anytime soon. For now, you can catch the documentary at these upcoming festivals:
Raindance Film Festival (September)
DOCUTAH International Film Festival (September)
Austin Gay & Lesbian International Film Festival (September)
Rio International Film Festival (October)
San Francisco Dance Film Festival (October)