“Brava, Susan! Brava!” roared the audience at the Metropolitan Opera House on Monday night as Susan Jaffe made her final pirouette with the American Ballet Theatre in “Giselle” after 22 years with the company. Before the curtain fell, the entire house was on its feet, applauding the prima ballerina at a deafening decibel. The most ardent fans, all toting oversized bouquets, rushed the stage and pelted their beloved dancer with hundreds of long-stemmed roses, while each member of the corps de ballet placed single white roses at her feet.

“Thank you for everything. I love you,” mouthed a clearly moved Jaffe to the audience as she bowed over and over through curtain calls. One by one, the principal male dancers, along with ABT director Kevin MacKenzie and Jaffe’s former dance partner Robert La Fosse, appeared on stage with bouquets large enough to rival those at John Gotti’s funeral. In the audience, ABT principals like Irina Dvorovenko and Julie Kent wept. The ovation lasted for nearly 40 minutes.

This story first appeared in the June 26, 2002 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“It’s really hard to be me right now,” said Jaffe a few days earlier as she reflected on her decision to hang up her ABT slippers. “l have such mixed feelings. All of a sudden, you’re not who you thought you were your whole life! It’s going to a scary transition. But sometimes you just gotta take your foot off the edge — and jump.””

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