“Roberto Bolle and Friends” hit New York and the artist couldn’t have been happier.

“This is very important, it’s the first time I bring my show to New York — it’s my own show in such a prestigious location, and it’s such an honor,” enthuses Bolle. The gala on Tuesday at City Center received praise from The New York Times, which called Bolle “a handsome man, an exemplary dancer,” and lauded the gala’s diverse program.

This story first appeared in the September 20, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The performance, which was sponsored by Acqua di Parma, falls within the year of Italian culture in America, says Bolle, so “it made perfect sense.”

Bolle first staged his show in 2000, traveling to China, Japan, Turkey and Greece, among other venues. “The location means a lot, I am very influenced by its energy and its public. We had one show in Milan’s Piazza Duomo, it was like a pop concert with mega displays, and one in Venice, so special. I try to choose unique and particular locations, either in terms of cities or sites, beauty or character,” says the tall, blue-eyed and soft-spoken Bolle.

Bolle points to the “responsibility” involved in the event. “New York is a world stage, my name is there as artistic director, I put together the pieces and the artists depending on my taste, it’s all very much about myself, I am exposed.”

The performance began with the “Excelsior pas de deux,” “the most well-known and most represented dance around the world, the only one that is really Italian,” performed by Bolle with Alina Somova. Pas de deux from “Romeo and Juliet,” Pyotr Tchaikovsky, Gioachino Rossini and Frédéric Chopin’s “The Lady of the Camellias” followed, among others, concluding with “Prototype,” on original music by Piero Salvatori realized by Fausto Dasè and with special visual effects. “I wanted a program mixing classic and modern. In the last dance, I [was] juxtaposed with my clones, there is a digital interaction. We go from the past, with Excelsior, and then close with a look at the future,” says Bolle.

As Italy strives to emerge from a political and financial crisis, hurt by unemployment and a slowdown in production, grants to arts and culture have been reduced. “The government is cutting funds to the arts, dance and theater, which are all affected. We are selling less tickets to ballet performances here, dented by the general economic crisis,” laments Bolle, noting that Italy lacks the “ability to involve private donors, as funds are not exempt from taxes, and there are no incentives, conversely to the U.S.,” for example.

All the more reason to praise Acqua di Parma for its patronage of the event. “It speaks of Italian excellence and of beauty, and in Gabriella Scarpa [president of Acqua di Parma ], I found a great sensibility for the arts and culture — it’s rare, she is so passionate,” says Bolle.

Scarpa underscores Italian excellence, expressed through “La Nobiltà del Fare [the nobility of making]: Stories of Italian Excellence,” a luxurious photographic book by Acqua di Parma published by Electa with images by Giovanni Gastel. The book is dedicated to Italy’s know-how in craftsmanship and the arts — 23 stories on the best of Italy, ranging from Bolle, Renzo Piano and Uto Ughi to La Scala, Rubelli fabrics and Sartoria Luca Litrico. The book, which was presented during the gala event, is part of a larger cultural project by Acqua di Parma for “2013 — Year of Italian Culture” in the U.S., an initiative that is being conducted under the patronage of the president of the Italy and organized by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Italian Embassy in the U.S.

“For us it is essential to have everything made in Italy, we help produce the ingredients and have been working with the same artisans for years,” says Scarpa. Acqua di Parma has deep ties with culture, she says. “We have 100 years of history, associated to Parma, its music and theater.”

Acqua di Parma was founded in 1916 and is best known for its Colonia fragrance range, although the brand also offers a home-fragrance line and assorted accessories in terry cloth and leather, all produced entirely in Italy and distributed in 38 countries worldwide. Acqua di Parma has been part of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton since 2001.

As the star of Milan’s famed La Scala theater and principal dancer of the American Ballet Theater, Bolle lives between Milan and New York, where he has had a home since 2009 and where he now counts a close circle of friends.

“I’m very happy, La Scala is my home, where I’ve grown and my ties to it are strong. New York is an international and important window, the public is very prepared and prestigious, and I am drawn by the city’s energy and enthusiasm,” he says.

To keep his energy, Bolle, who is also a swimmer and enjoys scuba diving, works with a “healthy” diet, with limited concern about quantities — “I burn so much” — but is more focused on food that “makes [him] feel good, not much meat and little pasta, and more fish and rice.”

With his strong and athletic frame, the handsome Bolle has been courted by fashion designers for years, and the artist has attended his own share of fashion shows and events. “It’s fun as I’m not really part of that world, I just see its beauty, glamour, elegance and refinement that contrast with my daily routine of sweat and sacrifices,” says Bolle, who now wears Dolce & Gabbana on the red carpet and at official events. “It’s all a dream, and it’s beautiful to have that possibility.”

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