A YAGP Celebration for Legendary Ballet Dancer Julio Bocca

Youth America Grand Prix brings Luciana Paris & Marcelo Gomes (American Ballet Theatre), Cecilia Figaredo and Hernan Piquin, Tiler Peck & Joaquin De Luz (New York City Ballet), Maria Noel Riccetto (Ballet Nacional SODRE), Yuan Yuan Tan and Vitor Luiz (San Francisco Ballet), Tamara Rojo and Isaac Hernandez (English National Ballet), Gonzalo Garcia (New York City Ballet), Nina Ananiashvili (State Ballet of Georgia), Lucia LaCarra and Marlon Dino (Bavarian State Ballet), Isabelle Guerin and Manuel Legris, and Rodrigo Colomba (Teatro Folklorico Nacional Argentina) together in tribute and celebration of Julio Bocca.

By Madison Embrey

On the evening of April 14th, the energy outside of the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center was electric. To your right, a group of girls in ball gowns were taking photos. To your left, a trio of boys, maybe nine years old, dressed in perfectly pressed suits, were performing their favorite ballet variations. What was the cause of this dancing and jubilation? The ballet world’s finest were gathering at Lincoln Center for a performance to celebrate the 50th birthday of Mr. Julio Bocca.

Hailing as the most prominent ballet dancer to come from Argentina, Julio spent his career performing in the United States with the American Ballet Theatre. More notable than his many accolades, was the heart this man shared on and off the stage during his forty-year career. Before the performance began you could feel the love for Julio emanating from every seat in the theater.

This tribute was the last event to take place as the two-week Youth American Grand Prix finals finished. If you’re not familiar with the YAGP, it is a prestigious organization that promotes the education of dancers ages 9-19 through scholarships, classes, and performance opportunities. After two weeks of competing and making new friends from around the world, the children had a chance to sit in the audience and watch the best ballerinas from around the globe perform. While a normal performance at Lincoln Center garners a polite applause, these children brought a youthful hooting and hollering as they watched their idols perform in astonishment. Lucky for all, their energy was contagious!

The performance was the finest collection of dancers performing works that Mr. Bocca had mastered during his career. The show perfectly incorporated video of Julio performing the piece years ago, which seamlessly transitioned into today’s stars performing it in his honor. From the heart-warming Romeo and Juliet pas de deux to the gravity-defying “Spirals”, it was as if the director said, “What are your favorite pieces from every ballet you’ve ever seen? Great! Let’s put them all together for Julio’s birthday performance!” Most notable, was the dynamite pair of Tamara Rojo and Isaac Hernandez from English National Ballet who performed a pas de deux from Don Quixote. The duo earned themselves loud cheers and a standing ovation to end Act 1.

Photo courtesy of Siggul/VAM Productions

The performance was simply outstanding, but what I’ll never forget about the evening was the love that was in the air. Not just for Julio Bocca, but for the art of dance. Dance is what gave Julio the ability to share his soul and touch so many lives. Dance is the language that ballerinas from around the world could speak as they practiced for Friday’s performance. Dance is what brought thousands of children together in New York City for the YAGP, creating lifelong friendships.

Although Julio is no longer dancing professionally, it is clear that his heart and soul dance everyday. His focus has moved to directing and education, and according to his colleagues, he is just as remarkable of a teacher as he was a performer. As the eyes of the next generation twinkled in astonishment on Friday night, you couldn’t help but wonder if the next Julio Bocca was sitting in the audience.

About The Author

Madison Embrey is a Michigan native that moved to NYC in 2010. After completing her BFA in Commercial Dance from Pace University in downtown Manhattan, she toured the United States and Europe with a live-action stunt show called Marvel Universe Live! Now back pursuing her dance career in NYC, she can most often be seen with a smile on her face and a coffee in hand. You can follow Madison on Instagram at @madisonembrey.

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