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Dance for Me, Argentina

Director of Buenos Aires-Based Ballet Is Proud of His Company and His Country


When Argentine ballet superstar Julio Bocca formed his company in 1990 to showcase young South American dancers, some people regarded it as an act of youthful exuberance or an egotistical, flash-in-the-pan folly.

But 10 years later, Ballet Argentino is alive and kicking. Its repertory is growing and so is its reputation. Far from distancing himself from it, Bocca, 33, is more committed to the troupe than ever.

"I'm very proud of it," Bocca said recently by phone from New York before the company's upcoming engagements in Costa Mesa and Glendale.

"It means a lot to me, because I have seen the company grow up so much. Sometimes I have to spend a lot of money out of my pocket, but when I see them dance, I'm very happy."

Bocca created the company because he wanted to make it a little easier for those who followed in his footsteps.

Born in Buenos Aires in 1967, Bocca got his passion for dance from his mother, Nancy, his first teacher. Although he began dancing for the company of the Teatro Colon when he was 16, it wasn't until he won the Gold Medal at the Fifth International Ballet Competition in Moscow in 1985 that his international career took off. He was 18.

As popular as a soccer hero in his native country, Bocca still was unable to find a sponsor for his company. So he put $100,000 of his money into the project.

Since then, he's taken Ballet Argentino to more than 15 countries throughout Europe, South American and Central America. It made its U.S. debut at Lincoln Center in 1995.

"The company still trains as a classical ballet company, but most of the repertory is contemporary or neoclassical," Bocca said. "Many choreographers enjoy working with it. Little by little, this company is getting its own repertory."

In fact, except for a Bocca showpiece, the "Don Quixote" pas de deux, all the pieces on the current tour are new.

These include Oscar Araiz's "Adagietto" (music by Mahler), Alberto Mendez's "Suite Generis" (Handel and Haydn), Mauro Bigonzetti's "Sinfonia Entrelazada" (Mozart) and Ana Maria Stekelman's "Tango Vivo" (Astor Piazzolla). Only the Orange County performances will have a live quintet to perform Piazzolla's music.

"I try to do at least three or four new pieces a year by different choreographers," Bocca said. "I don't look for anything particular in a new work. I look to see if I like the piece. And I try to think, 'Will everybody think the choreography is good? Will people like it or not?'

"That's why I do three or four pieces on each program. Maybe one is not going to be thought of as very good. You never know what's going to happen."

Bocca, however, has no interest in choreographing.

"That's something you have to feel," he said. "I don't feel it."

Besides helping younger dancers, his troupe allows him opportunities to expand his range.

"It gives me the chance to do new stuff," he said. "But I want it to be something special, not something I already danced. I do not want to do that again. I do all the big classical ballets with ABT. I really love working with them.

"But if people want to see 'Sleeping Beauty' or 'Swan Lake,' they want to see the whole thing, with sets, costumes, orchestra. I think that's wise. You can follow the story, the characters. When you have a small company, the best way to show them is in shorter pieces."

In fact, he continues as a principal dancer with American Ballet Theatre in New York and also a guest with companies in Europe.

"The rest of the time, I'm working with my company," Bocca said.

Home is still Buenos Aires.

"Down there I have my house, my family and my friends, everything," he said. "I also have an apartment in New York, which is also home. I feel very free and relaxed here in New York."

His international reputation has had an impact on the youth of his native country.

"There are a lot of young kids going to school who love ballet," he said. "Now there are a lot of dancers in the country who are working in other companies and countries."

But full financial support for his troupe remains elusive.

"I have had to reduce the company," Bocca said. "It's hard when pieces call for more people. Everybody dances a lot. When somebody gets injured, it's hard to continue without the person.

"At the end of this year, I hope the economy will be a little better and I can put two more dancers in the company. It's very hard. All the money goes for sports.

"But I'm very happy and proud to represent Argentina. Nobody has asked me. I don't legally represent it. But I love my country. I'm very proud of what I am. I'm happy to say I'm Argentinian. I try to take this company around this world and represent us."


Ballet Argentino, Friday and Saturday, 8 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 2 p.m., the Orange County Performing Arts Center, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa. $12 to $68. (714) 556-2787. The company will also dance the same program Nov. 3 and 4, 8 p.m., the Alex Theatre, 216 N. Brand Blvd., Glendale. $20 to $43. (800) 233-3123.


Chris Pasles can be reached at (714) 966-5602 or by e-mail at

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