Marianela Núñez is an extraordinary dancer who seems to possess an inner light which not only makes her glow, but illuminates everyone around her. There is a pure, almost spiritual quality to her apparent happiness on stage, as though there there is nowhere else she would rather be. It is an extremely rare quality: many sparkle, many dazzle, but few communicate heart to heart.
She is also a fine actress, using her dance to communicate a story, and at every moment is thoroughly engaged with her colleagues on stage, not dancing in a bubble like many guesting dancers. Add to this that she is also “a dancers' dancer” in that all the technical wizardry is firmly in place, and this will explain the yells and screams that greeted her curtain calls at La Scala after her first performance in Kenneth MacMillan's Romeo and Juliet last night. Even more extraordinary was the fact that a last minute substitution for an ailing Massimo Murru left her with less than a couple of hours to rehearse all those tricky lifts, but Gabriele Corrado rose to the occasion and was strong and reassuring. If fact, there was nothing that indicated that the two hadn't already danced together, or that Núñez was dancing on the set for the first time. That is the result of experience, confidence and a great deal of courage.
The obvious fondness and admiration of the La Scala company toward her leads me to reflect on the importance for a company to work with the best dancers in the world. With two local boys like Murru and Roberto Bolle, they rightly take up much of the top casting, and with Makhar Vaziev at the helm many of the guests are Russian. Obviously no one is going to complain about the presence of dancers such as Svetlana Zakharova, Natalia Osipova, Alina Somova, Polina Semionova, Ivan Vasiliev, Leonid Sarafanov, Andrei Merkuriev and David Hallberg (now an honorary Russian!). Up until this last month, however, the season's only dancer outside the Russian circle has been Friedemann Vogel. However, Tamara Rojo arrived for Don Quixote, substituting for Zakharova, and Núñez has now arrived for two performances as Juliet. The Spaniard and Argentinian – both based in London – have wowed audiences and the dancers from the Milanese company. La Scala doesn't have a ‘house style', so it seems that having a legendary Kitri in Don Q, or a Royal Ballet star in a MacMillan work, makes perfect casting sense. Just like having Merkuriev in Alexei Ratmansky's Russian Seasons where the style of dancing required is in his DNA; his presence could not but inspire the Italian dancers around him. So why not invite guests from around the world to dance in ballets where they excel? Everyone would benefit.
Last week, Núñez was the Royal Ballet's Manon for the world-wide cinema relay. La Scala is putting on Manon next year; wouldn't it be a casting coup to have her in the cast? Let Núñez's light shine.
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano') about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman's Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia' column for Dancing Times magazine.