di Marcello Mento
(By Emily Backus) Rome, July 23 - Italian ballet star Roberto Bolle has done it again, enchanting audiences over two sold-out performances in his gala series of "Roberto Bolle and Friends" periodically staged in suggestive surroundings since 2008 - this time among ancient ruins of the Baths of Caracalla in Rome, a magnificent third-century landmark, now an outdoor stage for the summer opera season. Performances, featuring Italy's most sought-after male ballet star in history and lead dancer at La Scala Theatre in Milan since 2007, together with ballet talents selected from around the world, have also graced Milan's cathedral square, the Plebiscito Square in Naples, the Valley of the Temples in Sicily's Agrigento, and the Roman Colosseum. This edition, called "Roberto Bolle and Friends from the American Ballet Theatre", paired Bolle with an international cast of dance stars from the US ballet company where Bolle himself has also tenured as a lead, including prima ballerina Julie Kent, South Korean ballerina Hee Seo, Brazilian ballet lead Marcelo Gomes, and Russian male star Daniil Simkin - known for his vaulting jumps and virtuoso style. Kent is a legend of her own and an American Ballet Theatre institution, of course, having served there as principal dancer for two decades, since 1993. Marking the first time in years the American Ballet Theatre has performed in Italy, the show fused genres and eras, passing from the two-step to the pirouette, from Tchaikovsky to Frank Sinatra in a delicate, romantic, passionate and highly entertaining performance. Bolle interpreted roles that have made him famous in the US, like extracts from Romeo and Juliet, The Lady of the Camellias and The Leaves Are Fading. Bolle first danced with the ABT in 2007 as a guest artist, and then as a principal dancer for the company's 2009 spring season at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York. Bolle also premiered for the very first time a piece created specifically for him by Massimiliano Volpini, that combines ballet with state-of-the-art digital effects. Kaleidoscopic forms, colors, images danced with Bolle, including a clone made possible with recorded extracts from some of Bolle's most significant performances. He even dueled with himself as Romeo in special effects devised by video artists at the Milan-based post-production studio Xchanges Visual Effects. The performance paid homage to the showmanship and vital creativity of American ballet, but also to the artistic and personal evolution of Bolle - with a definite nod to his own experience on the New York stage.