He was also incredibly nice to me and encouraged me from the very beginning of my career. He cast me in one of my first lead roles when I was starting out with the company, in Haiku, and the choreographic process for that ballet was an experience I’ll always cherish. I danced in two more of his ballets in the Choreographic Institute and on gigs, and I loved working with him. It is a shame he did not get more opportunities in that area. His partnering choreography was innovative and challenging and he had a strong voice. He was also such a nurturing presence in the studio. As a ballet master, he had no egotistical hang-ups, he wanted his dancers to look their best and he worked hard to help people grow and improve. He was as generous as he was talented.
He was also a total goofball and we all loved having him at the theater. He buoyed morale and could make people crack a smile in their worst moods. Even at his retirement he made us laugh, tearing off his ballet shoes and throwing them. It is not surprising to me that he would keep his illness mostly a secret—he only ever wanted to radiate light. Albert carried himself like a performer at all times and took great care with his appearance. He looked immaculately chic in things that would make less beautiful specimens look ridiculous: from his oversize gold Gucci sweatsuit to his bedazzled—he bedazzled everything—Merrill Ashley t-shirt. On tour he would steal all the blankets from the airplane and fashion them into crazy warmups for class. He would “shop” the lost-and-found and people would have to pry their missing belongings off of him in rehearsals. Of course, then he would show up in impeccable Prada suits and look like a model too. He was such a gorgeous man; I always thought that the way his skin glistened purplish and velveteen under the stage lights was alone worth the price of a ticket.
I am so saddened by Albert’s passing. It is a huge loss for the company. We already missed him so much as a coach during Midsummer. I will miss him terribly: as a friend and a colleague and a mentor. What I keep thinking about today, though it hurts, is Concerto Barocco. Albert danced the second movement pas de deux often while I did the corps and it was such a treat to perform it with him. We would share an intimate glance at the midway point of the movement and the ballet, when he would kneel and offer me his hand with shining eyes. It was right before he had his hardest lift passage, and it marked the exact midpoint of the long haul that is Barocco for the corps. We would wind around holding hands and he would squeeze mine and I would squeeze his back. It was a subtle comfort, a tender gesture of love and support. I will forever regret that I did not get to squeeze his hand at the end.