Ratmansky leaving Bolshoi helmand new premieres
Posted 30 January 2008 - 01:55 PM
I have no doubt that Ratmansky will continue to thrive in whatever circumstances he finds himself. I hope whoever the theater chooses as the next Ballet AD can build on what he finds.
Posted 30 January 2008 - 04:45 PM
I'm sure this is the case when KGB has nothing to do with. 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. 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.
Proof positive the FSB (KGB) was not involved: Ratmansky's body was not discovered in his bathroom, partially cut and sawn into neat 2.5cm dice, with more than half flushed down the toilet,and the Moscow Coroner did not rule it a suicide.
Posted 31 January 2008 - 01:44 AM
The first contract between Ratmansky and Bolshoi was signed for 3,5 years and expired in June 2007. Ratmansky signed a new one but only for 1,5 years, till January 1st 2009. This date was obviously determined according to the schedule of reconstruction of the historical Bolshoi building, its Main Stage. At that time it was to reopen in the end of 2008. Nevertheless since Ratmansky could sign a contract for any period in scope of the terms of the general director Iksanov (5 years or a bit less) it was a clear message that Ratmansky is inclined to leave Bolshoi.
At the meeting with ballet-goers on December 3 '2007 Mr. Iksanov was asked who was going to be the future artistic director of the Bolshoi ballet. The answer was as follows: "There are many pretenders for this post, and I considered many candidates, but I see nobody except Ratmansky for the moment".
But it seems that Ratmansky is rather determined to concentrate on creative activities, having nothing to do with administration of a huge company. So Iksanov was certainly asked whether he plans to create a position of resident choreographer, which doesn’t exist for the moment. His answer was that he sees Ratmansky role more broadened: as a person, who can also determine the creative policy of the company, be responsible for the whole repertory and conceptions of the Bolshoi tours. That in his view can free Ratmansky from such routine obligations as casting of regular performances, schedule, etc. etc.
Thus, according to American political slang Ratmansky now is a kind of a lame duck, and no wonder that the fight for his chair has already started. Such periods are generally hazardous both to the theater and its dancers. We’ll see what comes out of all that, but looking back I can surely declare that the years with Ratmansky were full of creative news and excitement, even if not everything proved to be a great success. Also we should not forget that Ratmansky worked in difficult conditions of reduced repertory, of the lack of rooms for dancers and rehearsals and all that.
I agree with Marc. Certainly Ratmasnky completed reformas started by Alexei Fadeechev and in some sense by Boris Akimov. For instance, the new Le Corsaire was in Bolshoi's plans just for that season at the beginning of which Fadeechev was fired. And Boris Akimov said during his term about the intentions to create Massine program. Both projects were done by Ratmansky. Class-Concert by Messerer is the first ballet of the pre-Grigorovitch era, The Flame of Paris will be the next one. No ballets were excluded from the repertory during Ratmansky's term. Thus, he supports traditions even more than anybody else earlier.
Posted 03 February 2008 - 09:34 AM
The first successful AD, she says, was A Fadeyechev, director in 1998, who first brought in Balanchine, reconstructed the blockbuster Pharaoh's Daughter and won the company enormous success in New York. But after the new theatre director Rozhdestvensky cancelled the ballet plans, Mr F quite the company. His successor Boris Akimov, a fine coach but too cautious a director, initiated the production of Roland Petit's 'Queen of Spades' which won several Golden Masks and even a state prize. But the most successful director the theatre acquired was the following AD Alexei Ratmansky. The Bolshoi's general director Anatoly Iksanov engaged him at the time of the staging of 'Bright Stream'. At that time the young choreographer was still counted as a "hope for the future" and was dancing in the Royal Danish Ballet.
The 34yo dancer renounced performing, but on the other hand the Bolshoi acquired its own creator, dreamed of by every great theatre in the world. However, Mr Ratmansky sacrificed his choreographic activity to the obligations of directorship: in four years he staged at the Bolshoi just three new ballets (of which one was smallscale, and another, the remounting of Petipa's Corsaire, contained only a few original fragments of Ratmansky's). In the quality of his directorship Mr Ratmansky provided the theatre with the breakthrough that raised the Moscow company to a world-beating level. Under him some 20 productions were put on (and this despite the reconstruction of the main theatre) and the repertoire became not only balanced but cultivated. Under him distinguished foreigners began to give masterclasses in the Bolshoi, introducing the dancers to the most important world schools, under him the casts became younger, and he radically updated the list of those who made headlines, ballerinas and male dancers.
However this year Ratmansky's contract with the Bolshoi ends as artistic director, and it seems he does not intend to extend it. The point is that everyone is happy with the theatre's successes except the company itself, accustomed to strict directorship and inclined to take a light touch for weakness. It fell to the Bolshoi's AD in all the years of his job to come up against both secret sabotage and open hostility towards his undertakings. Older coaches showed complete disrespect towards an "out-of-town youth" (on graduating from Moscow's school, Ratmansky was assigned to the Kiev ballet), eminent artists shunned premieres that they disliked, and people cursed their boss without a trace of embarrassment in numerous interviews. The choreographer did not have enough time for his own productions, while around the world the demand for "a Ratmansky" reached a peak. Finally, Mr Ratmansky received an offer from the leading American company NYCB, and, it is most likely , will become its chief guest choreographer - ie, responsible for regularly putting on his own ballets, but not run the company's daily operation. Mr Ratmansky is prepared to play a similar role in the Bolshoi, but this is only possible under conditions where the actual artistic director is someone close to him in creative conviction.
And where will such a person be found? There are many candidates, but no definitively suitable figures. There are charismatic personalities from the 70s, idols of the Bolshoi's "Golden Era" , who were genius dancers but proved feeble directors: both Vladimir Vasiliev and Mikhail Lavrovsky irrevocably discredited themselves as directors. The directors of active companies Viacheslav Gordeev and Andrey Petrov, who are aged 60, have proved themselves dyed-in-the-wool routine-merchants. The veteran ballet entrepreneurs for some 45years, of the type of Gediminas Taranda or Andris Liepa, are dismaying in their [her words] lack of principle, bad taste and staggering lack of choreographic culture. The 34-year-old Nikolai Tsiskaridze is absorbed by aggressive self-promotion. The showman and television star is known for his definite creative vision: he likes only those creators who like him (that is, the patriarchs Roland Petit and Yuri Grigorovich)) , and only those dancers who are less successful than himself. It's clear that if he gets the Bolshoi company, it will lose a large section of the stars of the new era, and from its repertoire will disappear the hits of the past five years.
There are still some ex-directors around. But Mr Fadeyechev closed the door so firmly when he left the Bolshoi that the repercussions have not been forgotten eithe in the theatre or in the Culture Ministry. It is hardly likely that Mr Akimov can be persuaded to stay as an "interim" director: so unceremoniously was his contract annulled, in the rush to obtain the promising Ratamansky. As an ideal alternative would appear the Bolshoi's ex-prima ballerina Nina Ananiashvili, now resurrecting the Georgian Ballet from ruin. But Russia's leading theatre is hardly going to call on the godmother of Mikhail Saakashvili's child, for political reasons.
There are emigrants available. Former Bolshoi leader Vladimir Derevyanko, chief of the Dresden Ballet. Mikhail Messerer, descendant of the noted Moscow ballet dynasty Messerer-Plisetsky, a teacher of world renown, who recently rehabilitated at the Bolshoi his uncle Asaf Messerer's 'Class Concert'. Ex-leading Bolshoi dancer and People's Artist Alexandr Vetrov -an irreproachable professional pushed out of the theatre at end of the 90s and resettled in the sticks in America. But it is hardly likely that they, after being spoiled by Western discipline, would cope with the prevailing artistic licence [corrected translation] at the Bolshoi.
There remain the St Petersburgers. An offer from Moscow to Petersburg at a creative crossroads is historically customary. In the 19th century Alexander Gorsky was sent over, and in his time he raised high Moscow pride. In the 1930s an entire army of Leningraders ruled the Bolshoi as coaches, ballet directors and dancers. The 37yo Grigorivich became leader in 1964, dismissing the Golden Generation, so that for 30 years the BB became the 'Grigorovich Ballet' . Playing the Petersburg card is quite realistic - the aesthete and expert in old style, Sergei Vikharev has successfully directed the Novosibirsk Ballet; Igor Zelensky, who spent half his career working in the Balanchine company, is firmly directing the Siberians now. However, undoubtedly in Moscow a Petersburger will come in to conflict with the hopeless antagonism of the indigenous population.
The totalitarianism of Soviet ballet, even though it formally ended after perestroika, left its traces: Russian performers prefer the whip to the sweetmeat, while ballet directors lack the necessary range and original creative vision. Of the new generation of leaders, Vladimir Malakhov and Nina Ananiashvili have succeeded in take charge of foreign companies. Finally, at the end of the year we will lose Alexei Ratmansky. And unless a miracle happens, once again we will find ourselves on the provincial edges.
Posted 03 February 2008 - 10:04 AM
Posted 03 February 2008 - 10:07 AM
Posted 03 February 2008 - 12:26 PM
I remember a lot of pessimism when Ratmansky was due to start his term at the Bolshoi. I hope that we'll be able to look back in a few years and say that these concerns were just as ill-founded!
Posted 03 February 2008 - 03:49 PM
Do I have a wrong interpretation? That's just been my gut feeling over the past few months, as Somova and Osipova are the wunderkinds of their respective companies, and one has had a much different reception from us here than the other.
Posted 03 February 2008 - 09:35 PM
That is a good way of putting it. And I agree, the Bolshoi seems to keep clear of the shocking lapses of taste that so many other Russian companies show. I trust, though, that a large degree of credit goes to the teachers there, and that the change of director won't impact this too much.
Posted 04 February 2008 - 04:41 AM
ngitanjali, you are so right about the different receptions from the west. But I would hardly call Somova a 'wunderkind' the likes of Osipova. Osipova is admired and cheered in her own city. Somova is admired and cheered by her coaches (and her one-person public-relations department on the internet).
In the Kommersant article that Delibes so graciously supplied/translated, the following caught my eye: It fell to the Bolshoi's AD in all the years of his job to come up against both secret sabotage and open hostility towards his undertakings. This is what I meant in my earlier post about "KGB-ish intrigues" at the Bolshoi. Some of you took me too literally. I meant sekret wheelings-and-dealings and psychological backstabbings, which is undoubtedly draining on Ratmansky.
Posted 04 February 2008 - 05:51 AM
Posted 04 February 2008 - 07:40 AM
Posted 04 February 2008 - 09:05 AM
Well, you definiltely got that one right, delibes! (ha-ha) While I personally have great respect for the Liepas, I have heard fellow audience-members comment on the 'tacky commercialism' of some presentations (big-screens framing the proscenium of the Kremlin Theater and such). But they've provided so much happiness and beauty to balletomanes with their Diaghilev-Era reproductions, for example, that how can one fault them for trying to find their way in the business arena in this 'New Russia'? Thank goodness that somebody cares to present Dieu Bleu and other rarities.
re. Tsiskaridze as a possible successor. The Kommersant article's words about NT possibly doing away with the 'hits' of the past five year's repertoire (e.g., reinstating Grigorovich versions of all ballets) mirrors exactly what some folks in St. Petersburg say about the fate of the Mariinsky Ballet if Lopatkina ever became its Artistic Director: the end of the current hits (Vikharev reproductions, in particular) and the return of Konstantin Sergeev's productions as the only options to the classics. Allegiances to old coaches & teachers are a big deal with both Tsiskaridze and Lopatkina.
Thanks again for all of your hard work in providing this very interesting news, delibes.
Posted 04 February 2008 - 09:37 AM
That would be the major difference with the current situation under Ratmansky: he not only broadened the repertoire of the company, he also always tried to keep a balance and nothing much of the previous "regime" has been discarded. Most of the Grigorovich ballets are still performed and toured. But then again Ratmansky also still gives Tsiskaridze opening nights and performances...
Posted 04 February 2008 - 01:12 PM
Thank goodness that somebody cares to present Dieu Bleu and other rarities.
Concerning the potential pretenders for Ratmansky's chair, I found that Tatiana Kuznetsova presented in Kommersant rather precise and short-spoken pro and contra.
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