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Ratmansky leaving Bolshoi helmand new premieres


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#1 delibes

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Posted 29 January 2008 - 12:39 PM

For my Russian homework, I have translated today's Izvestiya interview with Alexey Ratmansky. In sum: he will quit the directorship at the end of the year, concentrating on choreography. He is doing a premiere for City Ballet, and 'Pierrot Lunaire" for Diana Vishneva in California February, he has just done "Bizet Variations" for Nina Ananyashvili in Georgia, "Flames of Paris " in July for the Bolshoi. It seems a new ballet on a classical literature theme at some point in the Bolshoi (at a guess by Neumeier or Eifman). He talked about Parisian disapapointment at missing Natalia Osipova in "Corsaire", he appraised Svetlana Zakharova in depth, and he glided over (I am assuming it is) Tsiskaridze's well-known declarations of hostility. He said that Soviet ballet has an important historic place in Bolshoi repertoire. He generally came over IMO as an equable and resilient leader . He said that the Bolshoi naturally is a more classically-minded troupe than the Paris one, and his main job as director was to bring the Bolshoi repertoire and artists into th 21st century during the theatre reconstruction period, and that he raised its world profile in that time. It is long, but here is the full translation for interest:

Izvestiya Jan 29 2008
Headline:
"Today the problem of leaking talent is over."

Introduction: Grigorovich's Spartacus concluded the three-week season by the Bolshoi Ballet in Paris - one of the most successful tours in the theatre's history. In conversation with Izvestiya's France correspondent Yuri Kovalenko, the Artistic Director of the Bolshoi Ballet Alexei Ratmansky spoke about changes in the theatre, and revealed that in a year he will leave his position and devote himself exclusively to choreography.

Q: What was the main value of the Paris tour?
A: While the Bolshoi stage is being restored, it's very important for the artists to perform in historic theatres like the Opera de Paris, not only the home of ballet but the place where ballet was founded as an art. It's one of the loveliest stages in the world. Here everything is inspiring - the public, the building itself, the auditorium, and of course that ceiling painted by Chagall.

Q: Local balletomane were disappointed not to see Natalia Osipova in Corsaire, the girl who was dubbed in London the new Maya Plisetskaya.
A: Osipova prepared the role and was due to debut in Paris. But a fortnight before the tour, she and her coach Marina Kondratieva decided that she was not absolutely ready, and the debut was postponed. All the same, Natalia danced in other ballets, and I know she made an impression.

Q: Is she actually the brightest of the young generation?
A: The nature of her gift is such that she is very noticeable on stage. Among the young ones I would also pick out Ivan Vasiliev, Ekaterina Krysanova, Anna Nikulina and Denis Savin, and there are others. This gifted generation is actively brought out by the repertoire. But our established stars are very young too - Zakharova, Alexandrova, Lunkina. None is over 30, and they are already famous and loved around the world.

Q: How is today's ballet repertoire formulated in the Bolshoi?
A: More than half the productions are 19th-century classics. We also preserve Grigorovich ballets, we seek out young Russian choreographers and we restore one or two forgotten people who are significant in the theatre's historical or artistic growth. In this season's repertoire - 19 large ballets, 12 one-acters, the festival for Marina Semenova's 100th birthday, the "Masters of new choreography", the international projects "Kings of the Dance" and "Benoit de la danse", many tours. In all, around 200 performances.

Q: Do your artists aspire to dance contemporary ballets or are they more habituated to classics?
A: In our great troupe the choice is wide. This person may feel closer to Grigorovich, that one to the old classics, another is attracted to new ballets, but all have the same love to make it succeed. We are really glad to work on all of it. So when the hall raises an ovation for a new version of 'Romeo and Juliet' or Twyla Tharp's 'In the Upper Room', even the more conservatively-minded artists begin to understand: if they speak to the public in a contemporary language, without losing the highest standards of interpretation, this produces a major impact. And a young public is now coming to the theatre, which is very important. But in Russia, in contrast to France, the classical ballet is more popular than contemporary, and generally speaking we adhere to the classical lineage in our repertoire.

Q: Once Grigorovich remarked that the Bolshoi had gone over later to the West, and the Kirov earlier.
A: In my opinion, he had in mind that on the whole it was not necessary to keep in step with the West. In the area of repertoire, I would agree with him. This is precisely why we are very cautious in transplanting ready-prepared productions, even ballets that are popular on world stages, in which our stars might perfectly well shine. In our search for repertoire in recent years, all the changes that the press often write about (rather more positively in the West, by the way, than here) are targeted to answer the question of what the Bolshoi is in the 21st century. How to preserve this high style in a living and contemporary way, so that we set the tone afresh, and didn't just plod along behind.

Q: Today is it possible to produce a classical ballet on classical literature - let's say, Turgenev's 'First Love'?
A: Of course, something on classical literature is possible, though the classical ballet is actually 19th-century. That's a terminological confusion. Nowadays there do exist choreographers who use classical or rather neo-classical language, but there are not many of them. The majority choose a freer plastique. In that regard, our distinguished compatriot Boris Eifman, like the American John Neumeier, often uses classical literature subjects. We do have some plans in that connection.

Q: What ballet premieres is the Bolshoi preparing?
A: This season we have already had the premiere of "The Lesson" on a Ionesco play. In February we will show a new staging of "La Sylphide" in an edition by the Dane Johan Kobborg. In July there'll be the premiere of 'The Flames of Paris', my own production. This is a significant Soviet ballet. The theme is rather difficult - revolution and the the fate of individuals on a background of terrible events.

Q: That means the Bolshoi won't refuse to do Soviet ballets?
A: That would be impossible to do, no way. I am an admirer of Soviet ballet in its best manifestations. Leaving aside the political aspects, Soviet ballet continues to impress even today. This was the latest "Bolshoi" style in ballet history.

Q: What are you doing abroad this season?
A: In Amsterdam my ballet "Russian Seasons" on Leonid Desyatnikov's music will be presented. I am preparing a premiere in New York as well for City Ballet. A production of 'Bizet Variations' has just been made for the Georgian Ballet under Nina Ananiashvili's direction. And one other project, 'Pierrot Lunaire' on Schoenberg for Diana Vishneva, that's a premiere in February in California.

Q: You have no great problem with losing ballet talents?
A: In the 90s it was almost catastrophic. Almost all of my generation went. But now it's only individuals here and there. Economically all is stable here and creatively it's interesting. In the past 4 years we've staged 24 ballets. The artists dance more and more variedly, often they go abroad. And I am only glad when they receive invitations from other prestigious theatres, like the Paris Opera.

Q: Is the company generally of one mind with you? Do critics bother you?
A: There are many of the same view as me, and yes, critics do naturally bother me. But we do have a very large collective - 220 dancers and 20 coaches. Opinions can differ. The main thing is that those who "disagree" as well as those who "agree" all dance well, because they always put the theatre's interests ahead of their own. And also that there's an understanding that we are all in one business. I will not presume to evaluate the past four years from an artistic point of view, but I can say that we have fulfilled the fundamental task - we preserved both the company and the repertoire in the period of the theatre's reconstruction. And we have considerably improved the company's profile in the world.

Q: Do people love you inside the theatre?
A: I would like to be held in respect. To be loved by my family is enough for me, and I set great store by that.

Q: Who is harder to work with, ballerinas or male dancers?
A: That depends on the character. As ballerinas are more active, in that regard they're more disciplined, and they do want to dance.

Q: So even in ballet Russian men are, as in tradition, indolent?
A: Not all, but it can happen.

Q: The Bolshoi prima, Svetlana Zakharova says of herself - "Inside, I am steel."
A: That has helped her to become what she's become. It's most important to set oneself a noteworthy goal. Our profession constantly demands the highest physical and moral strength. She has to reach her highest level every single day.

Q: A well-known critic once called Zakharova - "gifted, but cold".
A: These are not words that I can go along with. Sveta is young, but already she occupies a place in the world as one of the best. When she came to the Bolshoi, it was one of those moments that lifted the company. The competition intensified. Now she needs dramatic productions in which she might open herself up more as a dramatic actress. Including even a production on classical literature in which she could show a character in development. To call her the best would be unjust to other ballerinas. We have remarkable female artists. But God granted to Zakharova an astounding body, she is a product of a first-rate school, and generally Sveta is a very major ballerina

Q: What do you lack for complete happiness in the theatre?
A: To me happiness is the production process, when I'm rehearsing in the studio and when we're all preparing a new performance. This is an even happier experience than the premiere itself.

Q: Which company seems to you the ideal?
A: Across the different companies there are different missions. In "Corsaire" or "Pharaoh's Daughter", you need to deploy more than 100 people. Very few can manage to put on stage 68 members of the corps de ballet of such beauty. From this viewpoint the Bolshoi is close to ideal. Of course in a smaller troupe it is easier to maintain good relationships. We are not a holiday home, the rules are quite rigid; you will survive if you have strength of will, love for the profession, talant. Apart from that, there are the laws of competition - one receives a role, another misses out. Sometimes it is hard for people to hide their emotions. But that is where our training comes to our aid. I must confess, we still have work to do on that within this plan.

Q: People say, you will soon be leaving the Bolshoi Theatre.
A: My contract with the Bolshoi ends in a year. I will stop being director, but I hope I will continue to mount ballets. This is what I want to do.

#2 Helene

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Posted 29 January 2008 - 12:54 PM

Wow, delibes, thank you so much :smilie_mondieu:

The most striking quote to me is

I will not presume to evaluate the past four years from an artistic point of view, but I can say that we have fulfilled the fundamental task - we preserved both the company and the repertoire in the period of the theatre's reconstruction. And we have considerably improved the company's profile in the world.



#3 canbelto

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Posted 29 January 2008 - 01:27 PM

I am sad to hear this news, because Ratmansky really seems to have revived a slipping company. Now the Bolshoi is almost bleeding with talent, and stars seem to transfer there year after year.

#4 bart

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Posted 29 January 2008 - 01:37 PM

Wow, delibes, thank you so much :speechless-smiley-003:

Helene has said exactly what I was planning to write as I read your translation. My smilie, howver, was going to be :smilie_mondieu: This is a major and fascinating story, and we owe you a great deal for bringing it to us. Many thanks, delibes.

#5 ngitanjali

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Posted 29 January 2008 - 02:01 PM

I actually began to (re) fall in love with ballet a few years ago, when Ratmanasky had just begun his tenure. Then, my only access was youtube and the modern Bolshoi was featured prominently. He will be much missed, and I am worried about who's next. I like Tsiskardize, however, he's still a dancer, and proud of himself, so I wouldn't like the idea of him running a company, because he might put himself in all the roles....you know, power and all that.

I just hope that I'll get to see the Bolshoi in Moscow one day, and it'll be as stunning as I imagine.

#6 drb

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Posted 29 January 2008 - 03:05 PM

For my Russian homework, I have translated today's Izvestiya interview with Alexey Ratmansky.
...
Izvestiya Jan 29 2008
Headline:
"Today the problem of leaking talent is over."
...
Q: People say, you will soon be leaving the Bolshoi Theatre.
A: My contract with the Bolshoi ends in a year. I will stop being director, but I hope I will continue to mount ballets. This is what I want to do.

1. Surely an A+, a million thanks, delibes!
2. Fascinating, the headline writer's choice. But it is Izvestiya...
3. Very strange, I wonder if the Bolshoi will reconsider. To let the world's premiere living choreographer go, the man who has developed such talent, who went to such heroic extremes to bring in Ivan Vasiliev, who has brought the company back to #1. Perhaps there may come a position in NYC(B)?

In any case, thank you, Mr. Ratmansky, and you too, Delibes!

#7 Natalia

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Posted 29 January 2008 - 03:19 PM

WOW! So another Bolshoi A.D. bites the dust. In truth, it must be hellish to carry-out the administrative duties of this huge company with 250 dancers and other staff. It is sad that recent directors who have taken the troupe to great heights in little time-- Ratmansky and A. Fadeyechev , most notably-- depart relatively quickly. Those nasty KGB-ish politics eventually wear down the best of men. THE GOOD NEWS is that it seems as if Ratmansky may continue his association with the Bolshoi as a choreographer/stager. He says, " I will stop being director, but I hope I will continue to mount ballets."

#8 Paul Parish

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Posted 29 January 2008 - 10:23 PM

THank you Delibes -- for the work of translating, and for the discernment in the first place to realize how important a story this is and to get it into English..

From my vantage point, the Bolshoi is looking like a GLORIOUS company -- the talent is amazing and looks like it's been given every encouragement, and the cream has risen to the top. He's been a great leader for them.

#9 Marc Haegeman

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Posted 30 January 2008 - 02:24 AM

Thank you, Delibes for this!
Funny, when it was announced here on this board back in 2003 that Alexei Ratmansky had been appointed AD of the Bolshoi there was mostly skepticism and apprehension, among others that he might have turned the Bolshoi into a Ratmansky-troupe. He was already condemned before he had done anything and some predicted the coming years as lost years for the Bolshoi. Well, I'm glad we were proven wrong.

On the other hand there is now a tendency, especially in the West, to give all the credit for the current blessed state of the Bolshoi Ballet to Ratmansky. It’s an often heard misconception to think of the company as ailing when Ratmansky took over. The Bolshoi that we admire and praise today is as much the work of his predecessors Boris Akimov and Alexei Fadeyechev/Vladimir Vasiliev as it is of Ratmansky. This in no way diminishes the significance of Ratmansky’s achievement (as we know it’s easier to destroy a good company than to preserve and build upon its qualities, make judicious choices of repertory, create and innovate, promote talented people, etc) and like he says himself he succeeded admirably in improving the company’s profile in the world. We all hate to see him go, but the only one who bites the dust here is the Bolshoi, not Ratmansky.

#10 Natalia

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Posted 30 January 2008 - 04:38 AM

Any predictions on who will be Ratmansky's successor? Grigorovich or someone in the very-vocal Grigorovich camp, anyone? If so, we could call it The Revenge of Spartacus.

#11 ina

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Posted 30 January 2008 - 06:42 AM

Those nasty KGB-ish politics eventually wear down the best of men.


I'm sure this is the case when KGB has nothing to do with. :clapping: In general it was rarely an initiative of KGB to be after somebody. The "bright idea" mostly came to them from the personal environment, mostly colleagues. :clapping: My guess is that administrative duties in such a star-ish company as Bolshoi may be worse than any KGB, at least for a person with an orientation for creativity mostly. Our Moscow balletfriends club had a meeting with Mr. Iksanov about two months ago and he said that for the moment he sees nobody who could replace Ratmansky. At the same time he gave us a clear message that Ratmansky is not willing to continue to be both balletmaster and administrator. Here in Moscow we are also rather concerned who is going to follow Ratmansky as an art-director. To me personally his period brought a lot of exciting moments. He had rather distinct repertory strategy, which I would rather be followed. But this is seldom (if ever!) the case in our theatre.

I do not think that Grigorovich will be (and should be) back at his age. His post-Bolshoi period showed, IMHO, that his creativity is already in the past. And I would prefer if the next art director does not sweep out all that was done before him – just for the sake of traditions which here, in Russia, we are more enthusiastic to speak about, than to preserve. Actually not a single ballet in the former Bolshoi repertory (say by Gorsky, Goleizovsky, Zakharov) has survived the Grigorovich era. Still I am not at all sure that Bolshoi ballet company should be a company of mostly one author ( as is Hamburg ballet, for example ).

Well, the future seems rather vague for the moment, though we have a whole bunch of rumours as to who is eager to rule the Bolshoi ballet. But our nearest expectations and concerns are connected with Ratmansky's “Flames of Paris” – a rather challenging, but risky enterprise from my point of view. :clapping:

#12 delibes

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Posted 30 January 2008 - 08:54 AM

Thank you everyone for your appreciation - I will tell you if my teacher gives me A+! I was struck by what Ratmansky said about Osipova not performing Medora in Paris - that a fortnight before she decided she would not be fully ready. This kind of fastidiousness is rare outside Russia, I shld think. In England and America, a fortnight - even a few minutes? (see Mr B, if I recall aright? ) - can be considered quite enough for a ballerina to pick up a new leading role and perform it to the public. One attitude is about serious study, the other is about show business. Osipova seems to be treating her role with the same perfectionism and reflectiveness that is more expected in a profounder ballet than a frivolity like 'Le Corsaire' . If it was the same seriousness of mind that she applied to preparing her performance in the Twyla Tharp ballet that they did in London, it certainly is not reducing the bubbliness of her impact, if anything the opposite. Even though she was not the lead, she was, like Ratmansky said, absolutely noticeable !

#13 Marc Haegeman

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Posted 30 January 2008 - 09:20 AM

Thank you everyone for your appreciation - I will tell you if my teacher gives me A+! I was struck by what Ratmansky said about Osipova not performing Medora in Paris - that a fortnight before she decided she would not be fully ready. This kind of fastidiousness is rare outside Russia, I shld think. In England and America, a fortnight - even a few minutes? (see Mr B, if I recall aright? ) - can be considered quite enough for a ballerina to pick up a new leading role and perform it to the public. One attitude is about serious study, the other is about show business. Osipova seems to be treating her role with the same perfectionism and reflectiveness that is more expected in a profounder ballet than a frivolity like 'Le Corsaire' . If it was the same seriousness of mind that she applied to preparing her performance in the Twyla Tharp ballet that they did in London, it certainly is not reducing the bubbliness of her impact, if anything the opposite. Even though she was not the lead, she was, like Ratmansky said, absolutely noticeable !


Delibes, I wouldn't call the new Bolshoi Corsaire a "frivolity". It runs about 3 hours 40 and the main role of Medora is really a marathon, not only technically but there are also a lot of mise-en-scènes, mimed and acted scenes which she needs to learn. As a matter of fact Osipova did learn the whole thing in less than two days time, but eventually she didn't make her debut for a number of reasons.

#14 Helene

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Posted 30 January 2008 - 09:45 AM

On the other hand there is now a tendency, especially in the West, to give all the credit for the current blessed state of the Bolshoi Ballet to Ratmansky. It’s an often heard misconception to think of the company as ailing when Ratmansky took over. The Bolshoi that we admire and praise today is as much the work of his predecessors Boris Akimov and Alexei Fadeyechev/Vladimir Vasiliev as it is of Ratmansky.

That's why I found his comment so noteworthy, because he does not take credit for more than raising the Bolshoi's profile -- by virtue of touring extensively, the profile is raised, but to have it raised in a positive way, the company had to be well-prepared when it toured -- and guiding it through the difficult time of the renovation of the main theater.

In Seattle, we found out what happened to our ballet company when the Opera House was closed for 18 months, and they performed in the arena next door, and it several years for the company to make up the deficit, and I don't think his contribution should be underestimated in this regard.

#15 Marc Haegeman

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Posted 30 January 2008 - 09:58 AM

That's why I found his comment so noteworthy, because he does not take credit for more than raising the Bolshoi's profile -- by virtue of touring extensively, the profile is raised, but to have it raised in a positive way, the company had to be well-prepared when it toured -- and guiding it through the difficult time of the renovation of the main theater.

In Seattle, we found out what happened to our ballet company when the Opera House was closed for 18 months, and they performed in the arena next door, and it several years for the company to make up the deficit, and I don't think his contribution should be underestimated in this regard.


Absolutely, Helene. When I interviewed him for Dance View in 2005 Ratmansky admitted that the closure of the main theatre and more exactly the possible consequences for the company were one of his main worries. But he succeeded brilliantly in coping with that.


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