The documentary about Marcelo Gomes, that is.
Anatomy of a Male Ballet Dancer opened the 45th annual Dance on Camera Festival at Lincoln Center on Friday evening where the crowd that packed the Walter Reade Theater included a few of Haglund’s most favorite ballerinas.
At the conclusion of this film, made by David Barba and James Pellerito over a seven-year span, there wasn’t much we didn’t know about Marcelo and there wasn’t much of him that we hadn’t seen. An exposing, revealing, unveiling, intimate portrait of one of American Ballet Theatre’s most theatrically gifted stars, Anatomy of a Male Ballet Dancer covered every inch of Marcelo from head to toe, from birth to the screening date, from inside out. How this documentary rose above most dancer documentaries in recent years, however, was in its honesty, authenticity in the dancing clips, and the woven-in family story that now carries impending drama into this spring's Met season.
Few balletomanes are aware that Marcelo’s father, from whom Marcelo became somewhat estranged following the divorce from his mother, has never been to New York to see his son in a leading role on the stages of Lincoln Center. Multiple times his father promised to visit but then cancelled his plans. The documentary broached this topic sensitively but thoroughly through individual interviews with Marcelo and his father, and with the two of them seated together. Their tears and the obvious difficulty of their words gripped the audience’s emotions.
During filming in Tokyo where Marcelo retired the role of Solor while guesting in La Bayadere with Diana Vishneva, he mentioned that it was another role that his father had not and now would never see him perform. While explaining the importance that the role of Albrecht holds for him and how it is the role that he eventually wants to retire in as a dancer (while clarifying not this year), Marcelo revealed that he had again extended an invitation, a plea to his father to come to the Met Opera House in May to see his 20th Anniversary performance in Giselle. As of the date of the film’s premiere screening, Marcelo’s father had not yet accepted the invitation although he had repeatedly verified the actual date of the performance through the filmmakers and had watched the documentary. Our fingers are crossed. Boy, that’s going to be some performance – devastating, regardless of what happens with this story line.
The documentary included breathtaking clips of Marcelo with Veronika Part dancing Swan Lake as guest artists in another part of the world. There was a clip of a Giselle rehearsal in Russia with Semionova in which there were major difficulties with the overhead lift in Act II, clips of Kings of the Dance, clips of Marcelo dancing with Vishneva, and endearing clips of Marcelo’s performances as a child.
Conspicuous by their absence, however, were clips of Marcelo dancing with his home company. Likely not the choice of either the filmmakers or Marcelo, the absence of any historical record of him dancing his greatest roles with ABT was shocking given the unfettered access that the company celebrina’s handlers have had to film her total performances and then use the footage for documentaries that are intended to enrich her and increase her celebrity.
At a Q&A following the screening, the filmmakers assured the audience that there would be a DVD available, but they could not say when, only hopefully sooner than seven years. It will be one to buy, that’s for sure.