If there is any event to push through sickness for, it’s Alessandra Ferri’s retirement from the New York stage. During my days at NCSA I remember countless evenings watching the video of her fearless and passionate balcony pas de deux from “Romeo and Juliet” in my dorm room with friends. We would marvel at her feet and arched lines but even on video something more came through. Since joining the company, her presence has been less frequent but never diminished, in fact it seemed to grow stronger year to year. To me she was always the most untouchable principal and an almost other worldly presence. Perhaps her celebrity status was what kept me away, but more so than that it was the complete awe that everyone had for her as an artist. She could, and did all the way to her last lingering reach for Romeo, do more with the small details than any other ballerina I’ve seen.
Last night was an event not to be missed so even thought I knew it would be a push health wise I journeyed uptown to assume my spot in the wings. The theater was packed to capacity with well wishers and devoted fans who welcomed the legendary ballerina with the prolonged applause that only a farewell performance evokes (although Freddie Franklin’s entrance applause as the Friar rivaled it.) After saying hello to my friends, I tried to find the best place that I could park myself and remain quiet. “Romeo” is one of the most difficult ballet’s to watch from backstage because of the enormous set that blocks many of the wings but I managed to compact myself enough to fit in the front wing in a position that tested the limits of how much the stage managers would put up with (I wasn’t the only one.)
(One of many blurry shots that I took. This one only begins to show the enormity of the Met audience from the stage.)
My one complaint with the evening was that guest artist Roberto Bolle just wasn’t good enough looking to fulfill the duties required of “Romeo.” Please note the IMMENSE SARCASM in the past sentence….check out the pictures and you will understand just how false the statement is. Ferri had mentioned in an article that she wished to introduce the New York audience to someone new as they bid farewell to her. I was very surprised by how much I enjoyed the pairing. He towered over her (at about 6’ 4”), lifted her with the ease of picking up a t-shirt (the most precious one in the world) and every moment between the two felt incredibly sincere. The balcony pas was everything you could hope for and I’ll miss having the chance to watch her do this from the wings.
After three acts of performing under the immense pressure the curtain fell on her illustrious career with ABT, however it would raise many more times within the next twenty minutes. In typical farewell fashion, the audience leapt to their feet and beckoned her out endlessly. The ranks of ABT, past and present, cascaded onto the stage and tears were shed as everyone cherished the chance to stand on stage with her one last time.
(One of Ferri's adorable daughters who acted as flower collecter and confetti thrower.)