The Italian newlyweds Walter Angelini and Ines Albertini are living a fairytale on stage for Dance Alive National Ballet—and in real life. They will perform together this weekend in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
They are from Italy. They have dashing good looks. They fell madly in love as teenagers. They cannot live without each other. They even finish each other’s sentences. …
Walter Angelini and Ines Albertini (now, that’s Italian!) are quintessential lovebirds. Their similarities to a certain Shakespearean couple are downright eerie.
“In Italy, people on the street used to stop us and say, ‘You look like Romeo and Juliet!’”
Angelini giggled when he shared that story. Sitting across the table from him, Ines burst into laughter.
“It’s true!” she smiled. “We love each other sooo much! He’s my best friend.”
Angelini, 24, and Albertini, 25, could easily be mistaken for youthful-looking students in this college town. They dress casually. They hang out at Starbucks. Their smartphones are always within reach.
However, about the only thing they study in Gainesville is their dance moves. Angelini and Albertini are principal dancers for Dance Alive National Ballet.
On Saturday, the couple will be onstage at UF’s Curtis M. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts in Dance Alive’s dazzling production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The curtains rise at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Angelini will play the key role of Theseus, the Duke of Athens, whose pending marriage to Hippolyta is the central story of the comedy. Ines had been scheduled to play the secondary character of Cobweb, a fairy servant to Titania, Queen of the Fairies.
However, in a strange twist, real life intervened in the ballet’s casting. This week’s sudden illness of Dance Alive principal Julia Ponomareva prompted company Executive Artistic Director Kim Tuttle to juggle her cast. Now, Albertini performs as Hippolyta.
When audiences see the show this weekend, art will imitate life when Angelini’s Theseus and Albertini’s Hippolyta are wed—just in time for Valentine’s Day.
You see, the Italian dance couple eloped in December and married two days before Christmas in a ceremony beneath a flower-draped arch on the white sands of Miami’s South Beach.
“It was just the two of us. Very romantic,” he said.
“It’s like a fairytale,” Albertini said, holding out her wedding ring and then removing it.
Inside the gold band, the Italian inscription reads “Ti amo e basta, Walter.” In English, that roughly translates “I love you and that’s enough.” The inscription inside Angelini’s wedding band is identical except, of course, with the name of Ines (pronounced E-nez).
“He’s the best man in the world. I am so happy and so proud to have him in my life,” Ines beamed.
Calling their marriage an elopement is not quite fair. The couple has known each other for six years. In 2010 they met in their hometown of Milan, Italy. They both worked at a company run by famed ballet dancer and instructor Walter Venditti.
Was it love at first sight?
“Oh, yes!” Angelini recalled, his blue eyes sparkling as he glanced over at his new bride and smiled. “It was magical.”
So magical, in fact, that he moved into her apartment a week later.
“It was happy-happy,” he said, glancing at Ines.
Well, at least for a few weeks it was.
“One month later, I kicked him out,” Ines said flatly. “I had to. It was too much for me. I needed my space!”
That didn’t prevent the love-struck Walter from occasionally bringing her roses and croissants in the morning. One day Ines caught him peeking in her front window.
“He was a stalker,” she said, “but not in a creepy way.”
Walter’s good-naturedness and playfulness didn’t sway her at first.
“And then I was sad because I couldn’t live without him,” Ines confessed. “I didn’t know that before [kicking him out].”
She let Walter move back into the apartment—and back into her life. The relationship blossomed from there.
The pair had seemed destined for each other.
Before they met, Ines had already performed in Boston and in Europe. She graduated in July 2009 from Zurich Dance Academy in Switzerland and was a guest artist in Greece and with the Italian company Danza Viva (which, interestingly, translates into “Dance Alive”). She then returned to Milan to work as a freelance dancer.
Meanwhile, Walter had studied for seven years at the famed La Scala Theatre Academy in Milan. He earned a scholarship and trained in New York City at the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at American Ballet Theatre, where he graduated in May 2010. He signed a contract with the Boston Ballet before graduating, but the lengthy visa application process forced him to return to Italy.
And, as fate would have it, to fall in love.
Ines and Walter met while working as freelance dancers. Soon they started working together to create new choreography and other projects for different dance schools in Italy.
In 2011, Walter and Ines independently applied for the Atlantic City Ballet and were both accepted specifically to perform as partners. On Thanksgiving Day of that year, the couple danced together on the street in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art (made famous in the original Rocky film) during the city’s televised holiday parade as tenor Nathan Pacheco sang O, Holy Night.
A year later, Angelini and Albertini joined the First State Ballet Theatre in Wilmington, Delaware. Also in 2012, Walter and Ines were commissioned by lyrical singer Andrea Bocelli to create and dance a new choreography in Italy at a gala organized by Bocelli. The couple choreographed Verano Porteno (a tango) and a remake of Romeo and Juliet.
In 2013, they performed a season with the Dance Theatre of Tennessee in Nashville, where they performed classical repertory ballets from Giselle and Hansel and Gretel to contemporary pieces.
“Then,” as Walter put it, “we found Kim.”
Tuttle responded enthusiastically to the couple’s emails, loved their story and their dancing. In 2014, they visited Gainesville to meet Tuttle and were each invited to sign three-year contracts with Dance Alive National Ballet. They are now in their second season with the Gainesville-based touring company.
“They’re very sweet people,” Tuttle said, “and they are both very responsible and beautiful dancers, with wonderful stage presence and technical accomplishments.
“They also want the best for the company.”
The feeling is mutual.
“Kim is such a nice person,” Walter said. “She’s also a good choreographer. I’ve learned a lot from her style.
“We’ve also learned so much from [Dance Alive] ballet master Andre Valladon—a great dancer, a great person, experienced teacher and ballet partner.”
“We’ve found a second family in Gainesville,” Ines added. “Everyone here is so nice.”
The couple has performed together a number of times, most recently the Spanish Dance in The Nutcracker. During A Haunted Swan Lake in October, Walter played the Prince while Ines played the Flapper.
“I enjoy when I dance with my partner,” Walter said.
“When we dance together, I feel comfortable, happy,” Ines said, her brown eyes fluttering.
Ines admitted that A Midsummer Night’s Dream is her favorite ballet because she loves the choreography, the music by Mendelssohn and the elaborate costumes.
Across the table, Walter chuckled. Outside ballet, apparently his wife’s passion is shopping for new clothes. He quoted the 2004 movie Mean Girls in which one character famously states, “Get in, loser. We’re going shopping.”
“She’s not mean and she doesn’t look mean, but she looks like the girls in the movie because they love to go shopping,” he said.
Ines admitted that she has a weakness for the Oaks Mall. She is often found browsing the designer clothing, handbags and accessories at Michael Kors and other retailers with fellow Dance Alive company member Buse Babadag from Turkey.
“When we go shopping, we spend seven hours in the mall,” Babadag smiled. “Walter goes away but joins us later for coffee at Starbucks.”
“I just hope they open another Bebe store,” Ines lamented, pointing out the brand logo on her glittery top.
“Ines is crazy about sparkles and pink!” said Judy Skinner, Tuttle’s older sister and co-founder of Dance Alive National Ballet.
“I’m an Armani boy!” Walter chimed in like a true Italian.
There is no question the couple is romantic. Walter gets Ines up each morning by lovingly pulling her legs off the bed before hugging her and then lifting her. Later, he makes his wife breakfast while she applies makeup in front of her large mirrors, with her perfumes, lotions and ubiquitous sparkles all around her.
In return, Ines cooks large meals for her husband, including sometimes-elaborate pasta dishes from back home.
“I cook a lot for him because he loves my food,” Ines said.
However, they also eat out. One favorite spot is Outback Steakhouse, which is near their apartment off Southwest 34th Street. And, yes, they also enjoy an occasional trip to Olive Garden.
About the only time Angelini and Albertini disagree on anything is when they work together on choreography. However, they have discovered that a give-and-take process leads to better results.
“We scream at each other—there is always a fight!” Ines said. “I have a lot of ideas and he does, too. Sometimes it’s hard to put everything together.”
“Yes,” Walter added. “But after a few minutes of craziness, we are very satisfied of the result and we agree.”
They recently collaborated on Neverland, to be performed by Next Generation, a ballet youth group organized through Pofahl Studios and Dance Alive. Last November, Walter choreographed a portion of Requiem for Dance Alive National Ballet’s performance at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church.
Skinner said that both dancers are an asset to the company, which is celebrating its 50th season.
“Walter is incredibly musical and charismatic,” she said. “It’s one of the things that makes him a great choreographer.”
Together, they just make you feel good.
— Judy Skinner, Dance Alive Choreographer-in-Residence
About Ines, Skinner said, “She’s very pragmatic and extremely organized. Together, they just make you feel good.”
Tuttle remarked that Ines is beautiful inside and out and that Walter, with his curly blond hair and lean physique, is the epitome of Michelangelo’s David.
Ines’s girlfriend, Babadag–in her first season as principal dancer with Dance Alive–credited Angelini and Albertini for adopting her shortly after she arrived in Gainesville for the 2015-16 season.
“As human beings, they have huge hearts,” said the 20-year-old dancer from Istanbul. “They don’t want any bad thing to happen to anyone. They love to help people.”
Although Walter and Ines plan to continue their ballet careers in the United States for many years to come, eventually they want to return to Italy and run a ballet studio. Their families are already building the school, which will be completed in two years.
Meanwhile, the happy couple will return to Italy in the summer of 2017 for another marriage ceremony. This one will be performed in a church and attended by hundreds of friends and family members.
Like in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, perhaps Walter and Ines will dance down the aisle to Mendelssohn’s “Wedding March.”
Now, that’s amore!
– Noel Leroux
To purchase tickets for A Midsummer Night’s Dream and further info, visit the Dance Alive website.
For further info on the two dancers and links to their YouTube videos, visit the Walter & Ines website.