NEW YORK— Let the record reflect that Angel Corella went out spinning.
The American Ballet Theatre star who retired from the company Thursday after an emotional performance of “Swan Lake” was most famous for two things: His whiplash-fast pirouettes and his sunny, buoyant personality. Both were on generous display as he bid farewell to a loving crowd that lavished him with bouquets, cheers, and endless shouts of “Bravo!”
In “Swan Lake,” the role of Prince Siegfried doesn’t demand a huge amount of dancing. Everyone waits, though, for the coda section of the Black Swan pas de deux, where both Siegfried and Odile suddenly explode into virtuoso turns.
When the 36-year-old Corella let his pirouettes rip — and they were in fine shape indeed — it was the moment the crowd had been waiting for. They erupted in joy at seeing vintage Corella, one more time.
Soon after, once Corella’s former partners and colleagues had come out, one by one, to offer hugs, bouquets or garlands of flowers, Corella shrugged and decided to do it once again, launching into one final spin on the crowded ABT stage, setting off even more roars of delight.
With all the affection flowing from the crowd, there was an element of sadness, too. Corella looked like he had more years of stellar dancing in him, despite the fact that he hadn’t been given enough roles in the past few years; His ardent fans weren’t ready to see him go.
But he had also been split for several years between life as an ABT principal and life back in his native Spain, as artistic director and founder of a new classical ballet company, now called Barcelona Ballet. That weight of that responsibility had led him to finally decide, a few months ago, that it was time to choose.
No doubt many in the crowd would have loved to have seen Corella do another Basilio in “Don Quixote” (ABT did not perform that ballet this spring), or another Romeo, or another Ali the Slave in “Le Corsaire.” But “Swan Lake” had already been scheduled with one of his favorite longtime partners, Paloma Herrera, and he decided it was the appropriate vehicle for his farewell.
As for Herrera, she seemed emotional all night long in her portrayal of Odette/Odile, as if she was thinking that not only Siegfried but Corella himself would soon be out of her grasp. At the end, she was visibly teary as she became the first of many fellow dancers to proffer her partner a bouquet and a hug.
Among them was Julie Kent with her two young children; Gillian Murphy, Xiomara Reyes, Marcelo Gomes, David Hallberg, Herman Cornejo, Ethan Steifel, who retires himself next week, and Corella’s sister, Carmen, a former ABT dancer who is now a principal with Barcelona Ballet.
Corella now will devote himself full-time to that company, which is suffering from the economic crisis in Europe. His fans can only wish that company the best — and hope that Corella himself will continue dancing for at least a few more years. He said in an interview this week that Thursday’s “Swan Lake” would be his last full-length ballet. But we can still hope to see him dance shorter works with his own company, which has appeared twice at New York City Center, and is expected to return.
But that may be cold comfort for some fans. Even after the house lights went up Thursday after all those curtain calls, and much of the audience had filed out, a large core of faithful remained to call Corella back yet again.
Returning, he smiled and waved and touched his heart, and gestured that they should maybe finally go home.
“No!” a few of them shouted back. They weren’t quite ready.