Few ballerinas inspire as much praise as the beautiful Alessandra Ferri. Ethereal, sensual, soulful and blessed with a flawless technique, she has long been one of American Ballet Theatre's brightest lights, creating magic in roles as demanding as Giselle, Manon, and Juliet, and in ballets as diverse as Jerome Robbins's Other Dances and Antony Tudor's Pillar of Fire. She has also traveled the world, becoming as celebrated in Tokyo as in London through her many guest appearances.
Now, after 22 years, Ferri will perform with the company for the last time in Kenneth MacMillan's Romeo and Juliet on Saturday evening, June 23. In addition to Juliet, she is making her debut as Desdemona in Othello and return in the title role of Manon during ABT's spring season at the Metropolitan Opera House.
Beginning with her classes at the Teatro alla Scala in her native Milan, Ferri has dedicated her life to ballet, winning acceptance at age 15 to The Royal Ballet School. It was there the late Sir Kenneth MacMillan, the Royal Ballet's artistic director and resident choreographer, took note of her. A boon for the young ballerina, his recognition of her gifts led to his creating major roles for her, notably Juliet and Manon, which became her signatures.
By the time Ferri joined American Ballet Theatre in 1985, she was already a star, having made her debut at the Royal Ballet in the role of Juliet. She would soon be paired with her ideal partner, Julio Bocca, who matched her passion with his own. "We have a special chemistry," Bocca says. "Just by looking to each other we know what to do exactly, and that is one of the things that makes her special not only as a partner, but most important, as a friend."
Kevin McKenzie, American Ballet Theatre's Artistic Director, knows her work well. In fact, it was McKenzie who partnered Ferri in her very first performance with ABT (Romeo and Juliet) in 1985. "Alessandra represents that caliber of artist that is so believable, you're not sure if you've witnessed an actor dancing or a dancer acting," he says. "All dancers strive to perfect their technique as a means to open up their expression. Alessandra's example as a total artist is what we all look at with pride and admiration."
This will be as an emotional a farewell for Ferri as it will be for her countless admirers. But her life will be no less rich. She and her partner, photographer Fabrizio Ferri, have two daughters Mathilde, 9, and Emma, 5. It is good to know they will be the beneficiaries of her new luxury — of time.