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By Wendy Perron
Line, lightness, and libido come together in the dancing of Jose Manuel Carreño. I don’t necessarily mean his libido, but ours. It’s not only his relaxed, virile, presence that's seductive, but also the way his pelvis, sometimes at the end of a pirouette, gently lilts forward.
Last night at his ABT farewell performance, I didn’t see that particular move, but his pirouettes are still dreamy. It was a night to savor a favorite dancer and the family of ABT. During the bows Carreño was smiling and also biting his lip to keep from crying. There were many bows with his two leading ladies: Julie Kent as Odette and Gillian Murphy as Odile. And then suddenly the curtain went up again and he was alone on the vast stage of the Met. He looked so humble. That’s when I started to tear up.
Soon his past partners came to embrace him, including Alessandra Ferri and Susan Jaffe. And the guys included Julio Bocca. When the whole company was standing behind him, he dropped to his knees, with his hand on his heart. This was done in gratitude, but also, I thought, He’s tired; he’s just done the full-length Swan Lake with an all-star cast of (mostly) younger dancers.
Later, out front of the curtain, he was overwhelmed by the enthusiasm of the sold-out crowd, all of us up on our feet, whooping and bravo-ing. He graciously opened his arms to us, walked way over stage right to greet those of us on the side (and we greeted him with more roars), and then way over left. Such spontaneous generosity! For his last foray, he came out with his two daughters to share the experience with them.
For a dancer to have such a high level of virtuosity (it's that Cuban training) and bravado and still be gracious and humble strikes me as rare.
About that all-star cast. Julie Kent was absolutely sublime as Odette, with delicate limbs and exquisite timing. Gillian Murphy was dashing as Odile, tossing in a triple every fourth fouetté. Joaquin De Luz came back to ABT (which he had left for NYCB eight years ago) to be Jose’s Benno. He too has beautiful line, plus springy energy. He’s like the heart of ballerino classicism onstage. David Hallberg relished his evil role as Rothbart outrageously, his slow moves particularly lethal. The way he tore into this role made the evening fun.
But it was Carreño's evening, and we're sad to know it was his last night of glory at the Met.
Jose Manuel Carreño takes his last curtain call as a principal dancer with ABT. Photo by Rosalie O’Connor, Courtesy ABT.