Julio Bocca Birthday Gala at Lincoln Center

Youth America Grand Prix’s Julio Bocca: Tribute to a Dance Legend brought back many memories for me. I moved to the East Coast in 1988, thrilled with the opportunity to see big time ballet and in particular Julio dance. I took many opportunities to see him, with great partners like Alessandra Ferri and Nina Ananiashvili. He was a natural in Don Quixote with his oversized personality and great athleticism; his Romeo was filled with youthful reckless abandon; and his portrayal of Albrecht in Giselle was touching as he was overwhelmed by grief. Dating my now wife, my strategy was to impress her by taking her to ABT performances featuring Julio. It worked and now my 12-year old daughter says about my photos from Friday evening commemorating his birthday “He doesn’t look 50 years old!” Through the years, I have one sour memory of Julio. I attended his final ABT performance in 2006. Sitting in the front row. Without a camera. I was the most unhappy person in the Metropolitan Opera House without something to record the great event during his long curtain calls at the end of the performance as he bid farewell to his many fans. I did not repeat that mistake Friday with photos on my photography website notmydayjobphotography.com.

The gala event featured Julio’s signature pieces along with dancers that worked with him: Marcelo Gomes, Joaquin De Luz, Maria Riccetto, Nina Ananiashvili, and others. The gala featured a big screen backdrop with Julio reminiscing about his early training, expressive hands, love/hate relationship with Don Quixote, working relationships with dancers. Clad in an ABT shirt, he came across as a modest and reflective guy, unlike some of the characters he portrayed on stage.

Leading off the evening was Marcelo Gomes, who gave a heartfelt speech about his relationship with Julio and how much of a mentor he was to younger dancers. On the big screen, Maria Riccetto, who danced in his company, talked about what it was like to be in his company. Joaquin De Luz gave a hilarious imitation of Julio’s hyper-serious on stage demeanor, taking a round about route around the stage before a solo in Robbins’ Other Dances. Tamara Rojo and Isaac Hernandez delivered a rousing Don Quixote Pas de Deux, featuring endless turns and loooong balances from Tamara. She threw triple pirouettes in her fouetté section while Isaac provided innovative turns in arabesque turning in to attitude turns. What a great performance. The previous evening Tamara danced with English National Ballet’s Cesar Corrales in an equally stunning performance. Cesar danced with such abandon and control in difficult turn sequences. Isabelle Guerin and Manuel Legris gave a poignant and touching portrayal of loss in Farewell Waltz, choreographed by Patrick De Bana.

The evening was about Julio and at the end, dancers assembled on stage around a table. All raised their glasses to say “Cheers” for a drink to Julio’s birthday followed by a long series of well-deserved bows by The Man.