Most people celebrate Valentine’s Day with candy hearts and teddy bears and red roses. But much as I’m a total sap for all of that stuff, my favorite VDay tradition is watching this clip of Alessandra Ferri and Julio Bocca in the balcony pas de deux from Kenneth MacMillan’s Romeo and Juliet. (It’s from the 1998 video American Ballet Theatre Now: Variety and Virtuosity.)
I used to love this film for the wrong reasons. Pretty feet and legs were at the top of my bunhead checklist when I was 15, and Ferri’s ridiculous arches were enough to keep me hitting rewind for days. But as I grew up a little, I began to understand the power of Ferri and Bocca’s famous partnership—particularly in this, their signature ballet. In 1998, both dancers were in the autumns of their careers. But in this recording they’re utterly believable as star-crossed teenagers, vulnerable and fragile and yet completely secure in the strength of their love. And they have sublime chemistry—it’s like an intoxicating perfume.
Ferri and Bocca’s R&J has been compared to that of another iconic duo, Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev. I believe that Fonteyn and Nureyev were just as magical. But while I can appreciate their rendition of the pas de deux, I’ve never been able to feel its power through my computer screen. I think it’s the kind of thing you had to have seen live to understand (if only I’d been able to!).
I never saw Ferri and Bocca dance R&J live either. But for some reason, their film alter-egos are enough to knock me out. It’s a different kind of rush. And it’s my favorite Valentine’s Day treat.