Saying that someone is your favourite dancer or the best dancer you ever saw is difficult, because some people are your favourites in particular roles, or new people come along who challenge the position, or you just don’t want to be forced to choose between equals. But if my life depended on it, I’d be willing to say that Victor Alvarez is my favourite male dancer, and, for my taste, probably the best dancer I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with, and without any doubt at all, the most musical.
Woytek Lowski once said to Jo (Josephine) Jewkes after her performance of the Prelude in Les Sylphides “Well, once again, you ruined the show – you were so good you made everyone else on stage look terrible”. In the same spirit, Victor has made my life a misery at times: when you know that something can be done as effortlessly, spectacularly and musically as Victor does it, and with such friendly charm and good naturedness, it makes so much else that you do seem like a bad marriage.
For years, I had hated the Flower Festival in Genzano pas de deux with a passion: boring steps, boring music, twee, meaningless nonsense, I thought – and I’d seen it enough times to know how I felt about it. Until I played for a rehearsal of Victor & Lisa Cullum dancing it, which made me realise that I’d never really seen it before – I might have seen the steps, but I hadn’t seen its heart. Victor transformed that piece for me in an instant, and I’ve loved it ever since. He did the same with Don Q, and Onegin. I’d seen countless Lenskis struggle with that 2nd Act solo, and used to dread seeing it on a call sheet. When Victor did it, however, he threw away all the technical difficulties as if they were spring-points and pony galops. Rehearsing for him was about getting inside Lensky’s character, not the steps. I have never seen anyone do this to that extent before or since.
Ray Barra created a virtuosic solo for him in Die Schneekönigin which brought the house time every time he did it. It was sensational – not just Victor, but the audience reaction too; they would applaud and cheer almost every step, so that you could hardly hear the music. Technically, I’m sure there were plenty of people who could do the steps, but Victor brought something else to that solo – generosity, musicality, elan, spirit, humanity, personality. It’s that ‘something else’ that makes ballet so appealing, and the lack of it that makes bad dancing so dull.
Without a doubt, Victor is the most musical dancer I’ve ever come across. For a while when we were in Berlin, I taught him the piano, and was completely astounded at what he could do in only a couple of weeks. He played the Chopin A major prelude more beautifully than most musicians, without even having to be told how to do it. He knew how to caress a piano into making the right sound, and knew what that sound was going to be like before he started.
Apart from that, he’s also a complete genius with computers, and I owe a great deal of my knowledge & and understanding of IT to him. If it hadn’t been for him, I might never have heard of Reason and Soundforge, two programmes that I now spend most of my waking life using; I’ve learned dozens of keyboard shortcuts from him (and also learned how uncool it is to use a mouse), and he’s sorted out any number of blue-screen-of-death problems for me.
He’s also a fantastic bloke, and the students at the Conservatoire in Madrid are dead lucky to have him as a teacher.