Roberto Bolle

Roberto Bolle

Watching dancers on television as a small boy in his hometown of Casale Monferrato in Piedmont, where he was born on March 26, 1975, Bolle decided that dance would be his future. At age 11, he won a place at the prestigious La Scala Theatre Ballet School and went to

Thu 10 Feb 2011 1:00 AM

Watching dancers on television as a small boy in his hometown of Casale Monferrato in Piedmont, where he was born on March 26, 1975, Bolle decided that dance would be his future. At age 11, he won a place at the prestigious La Scala Theatre Ballet School and went to Milan to study.


Homesick, far from his parents, his twin brother and other two siblings, Bolle remembers, the first three years were difficult and lonely. But it all proved worthwhile when, at 15, he was selected by Rudolf Nureyev to interpret Tadzio in the ballet Death in Venice.


In 1996, only two years after he joined the La Scala Theatre Company as a member of its ballet corps, Bolle was promoted to principal, then, in the 2003-2004 season, to etoile. His repertoire spans classical, neoclassical and modern ballets, from Swan Lake to Manon and Romeo and Juliet (one of his favourite roles) to Notre-Dame de Paris and many more. As partner to some of the world’s most acclaimed prima ballerinas, among them Altynai Asylmuratova, Alessandra Ferri, Darcey Bussell (colleagues at the Royal Ballet called them ‘Barbie and Ken’), Polina Semionova, and Svetlana Zakharova, he has danced in major opera houses and theatres from London to Tokyo, Cairo to Moscow, Vienna to Toronto.


Important highlights in Bolle’s career include dancing before such world leaders as President Putin when he performed with the Bolshoi in November 2000; before Queen Elizabeth at Buckingham Palace during her Golden Jubilee celebrations in June 2002; and before Pope John Paul II in St. Peter’s Square in April 2004. In 1998, his performance of Aida at the pyramids of Khufu and Cheops in Egypt was spectacular. In February 2006, he performed at the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympic Games in Turin. In 2007, he was guest artist with the American Ballet Theatre for Alessandra Ferri’s farewell performance, and two years later he danced in the company’s spring season at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York. In that same year, he joined the American Ballet Theatre as a principal dancer, a first for an Italian male dancer.


Most international ballet critics adore him, one even describing him as Greek-god-like; there is, however, a minority that is not so convinced, believing he lacks the charisma of Nureyev or Baryshnikov, and complaining that he has little ‘individuality.’ Some rumble in the ballet world that Bolle is more ‘brand’ than ‘true artist.’ This probably springs from the fact that Ferragamo chose him for its 2008 menswear campaign; he has also modeled for Armani and Gap and was featured in U.S. Vogue in 2009. This disparagement does not, however, worry his legions of fans who call themselves the ‘bollerini.’ Many of them travel around the world to watch him on stage or to attend his galas, Roberto Bolle and Friends, where he gathers dancers of international fame to perform in such magnificent settings as the Duomo of Milan, Piazza Plebiscito in Naples, the Colosseum in Rome and the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento.


Despite receiving numerous awards and prizes for his art, including the Galileo 2000 and the Pentagramma d’Oro in Piazza della Signoria in Florence in 2000, Bolle confesses that had he not decided to be a dancer, he would probably have become a swimming instructor. Fully aware of the fame and privileges that his career has brought him, he believes in giving back to help those less fortunate. Since 1999, he has been a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF. On his first field trip, to southern Sudan in 2006, he took with him, for the children of that war-torn nation, over half a million euro raised at the Turin Winter Olympics to be used for vaccines, HIV prevention and school supplies. For this work and the example he sets for others, he was nominated a Young Global Leader for 2009 by the World Economic Forum in Davos.


In late 2010, Bolle published a memoir, La mia danza (in Italian). It is accompanied by a DVD with almost two hours of performances of the 2009 Roberto Bolle and Friends gala at the Boboli Gardens in Florence.


Said to be a nation of saints, poets and navigators, Italy has also produced its fair share of world-class football players. It has not, however, been quite so prolific in producing internationally famous male ballet dancers-that is, not until Roberto Bolle came along. Tall, with a superhero-type physique and aristocratically boyish good looks, Bolle spearheads a new generation of Italian male classical dancers that includes Federico Bonelli, Alessio Carbone, Raffaele Paganini and Giuseppe Picone, who are achieving global super-star status.


To become a ‘bollerino,’ go to



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