Gonzalo Garcia gives his last performance in San Francisco with SF Ballet this Saturday. I interviewed him for the Chronicle:

“Gonzalo Garcia rises on tiptoe, brown eyes wide, chest reaching. He opens his arms for his ballerina, Tina LeBlanc, and she melts inside them, giggling.

It’s the same swooning reaction legions of ballet fans have to Garcia’s Spanish good looks and bighearted dancing, but there’s an undercurrent of regret this afternoon in one of San Francisco Ballet’s studios. The “Don Quixote” performances LeBlanc and Garcia are rehearsing for, with their final show scheduled for Saturday evening, will mark Garcia’s last dance in San Francisco.

“I’m losing my favorite partner!” LeBlanc laments as they rewind the tape to run their romantic pas de deux once more. “We really feel each other,” she explains.

“We breathe together,” Garcia interjects in his sibilant Castilian accent.

“I wouldn’t say we’re one entity, but it’s the closest I’ve come to that,” LeBlanc says.

LeBlanc, the company’s most sparkling veteran ballerina, knows just what she’s losing. So do the Ballet’s audiences. Garcia, 27, is a special case in San Francisco Ballet history, a joyful boy who grew up in the company’s school to become a personal protege of Artistic Director Helgi Tomasson. His jumps are soaring, his musicality engrossing, his puppyish enthusiasm irresistible. But most all, his pure love of dancing is magnetic.

“Some people in the audience say, I feel like I own you,” Garcia says during a rehearsal break, in a conference room with sunny views of the Civic Center. “And they do. They see things in my dancing I can’t see. And I’m so happy they stuck with me from beginning to end.”

But with familiarity comes fierce attachment, and small wonder fans were shocked and crestfallen at the announcement, a month ago, that Garcia would leave at the end of this season. The news came just as Garcia was hitting a high point of his career, secure as the company’s leading male dancer in roles as iconic as Balanchine’s “Apollo” and “Giselle’s” Prince Albrecht.

His plans weren’t revealed, except for a summer stint with Morphoses, star choreographer Christopher Wheeldon’s new pick-up venture. And no reasons were given, prompting gossip and incredulous speculation. Had there been a falling-out with Tomasson? With other dancers in the company? After Garcia’s wildly successful guest appearance with New York City Ballet in 2004, was he finally jumping ship for that troupe?”

Click here for the full story.

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