American Ballet Theatre, playing at City Center through November 5, boasts glorious prima ballerinas: velvety Julie Kent, lush Paloma Herrera, regal Susan Jaffe, and more. But the breathtaking athleticism, virtuosity, and depth of its male talent rules. Three men are moving fast up the ranks: Herman Cornejo from Buenos Aires, just 19, Brazilian Marcelo Gomes, 20 (both dancing since age seven), and Colombian Carlos Molina, 25, have recently been promoted to soloist. Corps member Sascha Radetsky, 23 (and despite his name a North American), astutely observes, “It doesn’t matter what title you have, it’s getting to dance good roles that’s important.”
Watching the fast-paced, straightforward barre exercises and spacious center floor phrases of company class, it becomes clear that artistic director Kevin McKenzie—who’s made a silk purse from this former sow’s ear of a company—favors natural jumpers and turners. Principal dancer Victor Barbee drills Gomes in a Balanchine variation. Expert coaching by experienced mentors illuminates technical éclat with the appropriate style for each ballet.
Lanky, six-foot-one Molina acknowledges that in Colombia ballet’s not exactly a household word. Being surrounded by terrific talent at ABT motivates him. “They set a great example.” Gomes likes the mutual appreciation of everyone’s individuality. “It’s great to see how different dancers do the same role,” he says. Cornejo, shy in person but dynamic onstage, came to New York in 1998 just to dance with ABT.
Radetsky—wearing colorful tights handmade by his mom in Santa Cruz, California—proved his acting skill in the movie Center Stage and likes sports. (He plays softball with colleagues Ethan Stiefel and Giuseppe Picone.) But right now he’s dedicated to ballet: “While I’m young, I won’t let anything compromise my dancing.”
All four agree that the company’s varied repertoire—from Petipa to Graham to Tharp—makes them better dancers. And though it can be tough on their bodies, “Each style feeds the others,” says Radetsky. Competition among them, they feel, is positive, and all are excited about dancing this season in premieres by Christian Holder and Natalie Weir.