Marcelo Gomes at En Avant Foundation
Offstage, ballet dancers can be unintentionally intimidating; they have an inherent sense of purpose from years of training, they wear clothes as well as they do costumes, and their posture and muscle tone are envy-inducing.
This perception of aloofness is misleading when it comes to Marcelo Gomes. The American Ballet Theater principal was interviewed as part of a series of events over April 17-19 sponsored by the En Avant Foundation. Created by former ABT and Royal Ballet Principal Cynthia Harvey, En Avant’s mission is to better educate dancers and audiences alike about the art of ballet. Harvey and guest teachers coach, mentor and teach master classes for students desiring to enhance their training beyond technique. The general public can attend special events and lectures.
Thus, Marcelo Gomes perfectly personifies En Avant’s goals. In addition to being interviewed, he led a master class during the weekend for preselected students. The interview was conducted by Lisa Reinhart, an arts writer. She too is a former ABT dancer who is married to Mikhail Baryshnikov. Baryshnikov, like Kevin McKenzie his successor as ABT’s Artistic Director, emphasized male dancing, which has been consistently excellent for years.
Their conversation was informative but never too technical. Gomes began his dance training at age five in musical theatre and switched to ballet at 8. He came to the US at 13 to study at Harid Conservatory in Florida. He didn’t speak English before his arrival, admitting that ballet “makes you grow up faster”. Gomes joined ABT in 1997 at the age of 22 and was promoted Principal in 2002. Like many other performing artists he is on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram because doing so, citing Birdman, “makes it real”.
Gomes charmingly offered insights on partnering. Explaining that his job is to be “humble to the ballerina”, he “listens for her breath” in order to know where and how to hold her – adding that “the audience will only look at him” if she falls off balance. In addition to working with his longtime ABT coach Clinton Luckett, he prepares by “not watching videos of other dancers in the same role.” He also reads up on the ballet’s history. For ABT’s 75th anniversary season he will dance the Prince in Alexi Ratmansky’s new production of Sleeping Beauty and the Man From the House Opposite in Antony Tudor’s Pillar of Fire. The Tudor masterpiece is a “challenge” because the acting is as essential as the dancing. The other challenge is that he’s playing the bad guy.
Photos: Marcelo Gomes
For further information on Marcelo Gomes and future events visit here.