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Mikhail

Alexei Ratmansky is a new artistic director of the Bolshoi Ballet

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The contract of Mr. Boris Akimov as the artistic director of the Bolshoi ballet ends today. It is announced officially that this position was offered to Mr. Alexei Ratmansky and the offer was accepted. The contract is for three years, what is usual. Because of his international obligations Mr. Ratmansky's term will be started from January 1, 2004. Meanwhile Mr. Akimov will keep the position until this date and will be responsible also for the Bolshoi tour to Paris in January. After that Mr. Akimov will stay at the Bolshoi as a coach. He keeps also a position of the artistic director of the Moscow Academy of Choreography (Bolshoi's ballet school).

In a short interview Mr. Ratmansky made some statements although he prefers not to discuss for the moment his plans in details. He tells that the possibilities given by the job with the Bolshoi ballet dominate over all his and his family doubts. He hopes to have enough time to create new ballets for the Bolshoi company, presumably one a year. He promises to fulfill all obligations abroad to the end of the year. As is known, Mr. Ratmansky has a tenure as a dancer at the Royal Danish Ballet. He staged already a few ballets for this and other companies including Mariinsky, Bolshoi and San-Francisco Ballet. His new ballet "The Bright Stream" became a bestseller in Moscow this spring. Ratmansky plans now to stage "Anna Karenina" for the Royal Danish Ballet - the premier is supposed to take place in April, 2004. Nevertheless Ratmansky is going to visit Moscow regularly before the more permanent removal in January. And he thinks that the time comes now when he has to stop his career as a dancer. Mr. Gennady Yanin, the Bolshoi soloist, will be his deputy director (actually Yanin has the same position now).

Mr. Ratmansky was born in Petersburg 08/27/1968. During 1978-86 he was trained at Moscow Ballet School where his teachers were Mrs. Markeeva and Mr. Pestov. He was the student of the same year as Vladimir Malakhov, Gennady Yanin, Yuri Burlaka (the principal at the Vyacheslav Gordeev's company) and Natalia Ledovskaya (the principal at the Stanislavsky theater) and they were and still are good friends. After the graduation in 1986 Ratmansky was sent to Kiev where he became a soloist and principal of the Ukranian National Opera house. He won Nijinsky prize in Moscow in 1992. He made also his studies as a ballet master at Choreography Department of the State Academy for the Performing Arts in Moscow (1988-92). In 1992-95 Ratmansky was a principal at the Winnipeg Royal Ballet, from 1997 - at the Royal Danish Ballet. His ballet "Dream of Japan" was awarded by the Golden Mask" in Russia (1998). The last year Her Majesty the Queen of Denmark honored Mr. Ratmansky by the order of the Danish Flag. In total Alexei Ratmansky staged about 40 concert numbers, small and full scale ballets.

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Thank you, Mikhail, for this news, which sounds very hopeful indeed. A choreographer as artistic director is not such a bad start. I assume there were other candidates for the post as well?

Could you possibly tell us something about the recent press conference which took place at the Bolshoi, presenting the new season of the theatre. Thanks!

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Indeed, Marc, there was a press-conference, a few days ago, before the announcement about Ratmansky.

There will be two premiers at the Bolshoi.

In December - a new version of R&D. The choreographer - Radu Poklitaru, the ballet will be staged (directed?) by the famous Declan Donnelan (I am not sure in the spelling). Poklitaru tells that the ballet will be staged for bare-legged dancers (?!).

In March-April the revised Balanchine program will be back: "Agon" and "Symphony in C" are taken from the previous one cancelled by the administration after Fadeechev was fired. "Mozartiana" will be replaced by the set of pdd: Tchaikovsky, Sylvia, Tarantella and Pas de trois by Glinka. I regret!

There was a project to obtain some new ballets by Wheeldon but nothing was mentioned at the press-conference.

French TV comes in October to shoot "The Pharaoh Daughter" - they will work at the three last performances. The cast is not known yet.

No other news for the moment.

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Thanks, Mikhail. I gather R&D stands for "Romeo ad Juliet"? In any case it sounds very challenging.

Good to know that "Pharaoh's Daughter" will finally be filmed and I hope commercially released on video/DVD.

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Ratmansky is the choreographer of the pathetic new 'Cinderella' at the Kirov. Radu Poklitaru -- a long-time int'l ballet competitions 'modern' solo & pdd choreographer -- created a 2000 Varna IBC duet set to the 'Swan lake adagio' in which the woman danced a male hunter and the man danced a nude swan with a 'swan-noise trumpet' in his mouth. Subtlety-in-comedy is not a hallmark of either Mr. Ratmansky or Poklitary, I am afraid.

It may be vaudeville time at the Bolshoi, ladies & gents!

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Ratmansky has said in an interview that he doesn't think classical dance has a future and went on to compare ballet dancers to overbred show dogs.

Somehow, I am not optimistic.

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I am optimistic because nothing could be worse than the situation during maestro Rozhdestvensky’s term two years ago.

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Two optimistic aspects to Ratmansky. I spoke with him briefly in Copenhagen at the 2000 Bournonville Week (he had led the tarantella in Napoli, the best of the foreigners, IMO, and I was surprised). He seemed quite excited about Bournonville and wanted to dance more of it -- not the usual reaction of someone who hates classical dance. And while I haven't seen his "Carnival of the Animals" for San Francisco Ballet -- where he did have full control -- several people whose opinions I respect and with whom I usually agree raved about it (not to say there might not be other opinions, just saying they're people I trust).

Some (and I emphasize some) ballet dancers ARE overbred show dogs, concerned only with technique and how far they can stretch. I'll hope that's what he means.

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Overbred show dogs? I don't think ballets are very often ruined by high extensions. When was the last time you left the theater with the comment "It was nearly perfect, except for all those six-o-clock penches."

If the ballet was bad, it was probably because of unimaginative choreography, frivolous or silly librettos, poor coaching, hokey acting, or endemic problems of morale in the company. None of these are the dancer's problem.

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Alexandra, Ratmansky is a very interesting dancer. I am far less certain, however, of his merits as a choreographer. I haven’t seen his two latest (and they were hailed as great successes), but I did see about twelve of his works, including “Cinderella”. They ranged from truly awful and amateur (Nutcracker), to just bearable, to watchable. Most lacked structure of any kind and an understanding of how to use stage space effectively (this may come with experience). He is inventive, but not a couturier (most of his work looks like it was made on him, rather then on his dancers), and lacks range (all of the ballets I saw were done in the grotesque genre, and that’s about as far from classical dance as Bejart is, in his own way).

Furthermore, and this is highly debatable, of course, I just don’t think that a choreographer (unless he is on the same level as Ashton or Balanchine, which Ratmansky definitely is not) should be running an institutional company. Mikhail is probably right in that nothing can be as bad as Rozhdestvensky’s term, but what the Company needs now is another Fadeechev (or better yet, Fadeechev himself)—someone with strong managerial skills who can command the respect of the dancers, has clear ideas about the direction of the Company, repertoire, who can organize 250 dancers, commission new works, arrange tours, etc, etc, etc. Will Ratmansky be able to do all that WELL (and still choreograph)? I hope so, but I am not holding my breath.

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I very much admired Fadeechev, for how the company looked during his brief tenure, on his revival of Lavrovsky ballets, on reports of high morale I got from colleagues who were watching rehearsals and interviewing dancers during his time, and not the least for his courage when he left. (Mark Haegeman interviewed him in Ballet Alert! about the situation there then.) And I agree with all of Roma's points about what an institutional ballet master needs to be.

I suspect that what's going on at the Bolshoi is still related to the battling factions surrounding Yuri Grigorovitch -- one ballet master revives Lavrovsky and he's out, succeded by someone who revives Grigorovitch. I don't know the politics there enough to know which way the wind is blowing now, much less who is on which side, but as Balanchine said, we'll see it in the programs :) It's my guess that no matter who is chosen -- unless s/he's an artist with the total respect of the company, at the height of his/her powers and a strong personality -- the directors there will be blown by those winds for some time to come.

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The Russian Ministry of Culture officials will die, but not let A. Fadeyechev back. Person, who is ready to stand for his believes, and more than that - act, is definitely not winning any popularity contests here in Russia.

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Daron, I'm sure you're right. There's a similar situation in Denmark :) It's the down side, as we would say, to state ownership/funding of the arts.

The same thing could happen here -- an artistic director could stand on principle before his board (well, in theory anyway) and be fired, but he could always go someplace else because there are so many companies.

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Alexandra, it is a perfect world, isn't it?

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Daron, la perfection n’est pas de ce monde. There are no doubts you are completely right in what concerns Fadeyechev. He was the best of four last artistic directors, and the officials will not allow him to be back. Not only because of the personal reasons: there is a long tradition in Russia and the USSR – who is fired is fired forever (some exceptions happened only during the “perestroika”).

I would agree with Roma in many parts of her post. But I am not afraid that Ratmansky will occupy the Bolshoi stage with his ballets. The main question is what he is going to do with the classical grand ballets and the works by Balanchine? I am sure this is the only way to let artists to dance more than once a month. I think also that one of the first problems to be solved is to bring back the normal Swan Lake and the Sleeping Beauty – I found that Grigorovitch’s versions of these ballets are awful. This is a completely personal point of view, of course. It could be SL by Gorsky-Messerer (the traditional Moscow version) and SB by K.Sergeev (as Mariinsky prefers Vikharev’s one).

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I think we should at least give the guy a chance to prove himself. Although I, too, have my doubts about his gifts as a choreographer (his best moments seem to be small-scaled, in other words fitting awkwardly within the Bolshoi frame), that doesn’t say anything about his possible merits as a leader of a company (be it a hornet’s nest like the Bolshoi), nor what his artistic vision and influence will be. And as Mikhail mentions, nobody is perfect. We all admire Alexei Fadeyechev, especially for his profoundly human approach, while the company was undergoing a splendid transformation. Yet it was also under his tenure that the glories of Eifman were brought to the Bolshoi, while he was flirting with choreographers like Stanton Welch and, yes, Ratmansky. There is always a way.

Let's wait and see.

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Marc, Mr. Eifman with his glories was brought to the Bolshoi by Mr. A. Vassiliev. A. Fadeyechev had nothing to do with it.

S. Welch and A. Ratmansky are young and quite promising choreographers, and, as we all know, there are not that much of them.

We all give him a chance, sure.

Who will give three and half years back to the dancers, if/when Mr. Ratmansky fails as an artistic director?

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Originally posted by Daron

Mr. Eifman with his glories was brought to the Bolshoi by Mr. A. Vassiliev. A. Fadeyechev had nothing to do with it.

Yes, of course, they only performed it while Fadeyechev was artistic director. One of the many "artistic differences" between the general AD of the Bolshoi Theatre and the AD of the ballet company, I suppose? And how many ballets will they bring in with which Ratmansky has nothing to do? As for the dancers, I'm afraid they have been losing a lot more more than that already.

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I just want to chime in quickly and shortly in defense of Alexei...

I am so excited for him.

He loves Russia, and he has tremendous respect and affection for classical ballet and dancers.

His passion has no limits and I know that he values artistry before tricks.

His choreography I believe is fantastic, full of humour and unexpected.

He is a wonderful generous human being, and that is what is the most important for a Director I believe !

Good luck Alexei...

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Thank you for that, Olivier. I know several people in Denmark who share that opinion (Ratmansky has danced with the RDB for several years, and choreographed for them as well).

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