Amy Reusch

A Ratmansky Ballerina? A Wheeldon Ballerina?

18 posts in this topic

I think there is a concept of what made a Balanchine ballerina... though surely there was more than one type. Perhaps it was more that a particular ballerina was well suited to Balanchine's choreography than thre was any stereotype...

Have Ratmansky & Wheeldon been around long enough yet that we can describe the sort of dancer that they tend to like to work with? Just curious what qualities they are bringing to the fore as these may well influence the future form ballet dancers take...

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This is not a direct answer to your question, as I have not had the opportunity to see enough Ratmansky or Wheeldon to comment (wish I could!). But I think one reason that a "Balanchine ballerina" develpoed is because there was a school devoted to training dancers in his style. I wonder if full-fledged Ratmansky or Wheeldon ballerinas could emerge without the support of a school...?

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Both Ratmansky and Wheeldon come from similar training backgrounds. This may influence their choose of body type and quality of movement.

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I was wondering if one needed a school or merely a home company? There was a Tudor ballerina type, I believe, and though he taught at Julliard, I'm not sure he brought women from there into ABT... Or am I wrong about that?

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This is not a direct answer to your question, as I have not had the opportunity to see enough Ratmansky or Wheeldon to comment (wish I could!). But I think one reason that a "Balanchine ballerina" develpoed is because there was a school devoted to training dancers in his style. I wonder if full-fledged Ratmansky or Wheeldon ballerinas could emerge without the support of a school...?

I think you're correct, Stage Right, no doubt the school was essential in making the "Balanchine type" more prevalent, as the talent pool from which Balanchine could draw became larger and he could pick and choose with greater freedom. But he seems to have been working toward this type for years in his training and choreography, selecting dancers like Tallchief who was not a product of his school but had possibilities he could develop.

I haven't seen enough Ratmansky to say. I have seen more Wheeldon and I wonder from his style if perhaps Wendy Whelan (known to me only by what I have heard and read by others) is the "Wheeldon ballerina" -- so far? Can others comment?

Nice topic, Amy, thank you for starting it.

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I would qualify a Ratmansky dancer (male or female) as someone who can make the dance look completely organic, spontaneous, and loose. Acting ability, specifically comedy, is also required (not everyone has the chops for comedy, witness all the film actors with awards for drama who fail at comedy).

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Did Ratmansky choose his Firebirds? Or was it negotiated with Kevin McKenzie? I am curious to see Misty Copeland as Firebird, but will probably only get to see one... and I want to see Osipova fly.

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Does it have to be a ballerina? in my opinion, Wheeldon's ballets were better if he made them on Jock Soto.

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I actually was wondering about that... The guys come to mind more for me in the little of Ratmansky's work that I've seen.

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wonderful question, worth speculating on.

And htis is gonna be seculative, since I haven't seen the whole range of either, by any means.

But first, a ballerina to Balanchine was "a good dancer who has imagination" (according to Mimi Paul, on whom he created the walking pdd in "Emeralds" -- who said so in a wonderful interview in Ballet Review.) ALl his dancers had a certain look and training and musicality -- though by no means all of the good dancers he used looked as uniformly elongated as we tend to think. There were some short girls with big heads who could really move.)

Imagination has to be one of hte great characteristics a choreographer requires.

Whelan has it --

The first Ratmansky we saw in San Francisco was "Carnival of the Animals," which absolutely required imagination to make it happen. It was not till I saw the ballet a second time, with the outrageous Lorena Feijoo as the ballerina, that I realized how Gogol-level fantastic the ballet is. Maybe I should say Disney -- it was like the cartoon-ballet in Fantasia -- Feijoo was dancing an elephant who thought she was Raymonda, grand, magnificent ballerina with amazing character style; Feijoo is willing to go there and get into that, and project it. I felt like I was exploding. My hunch is that his work will benefit the most from dancers with a taste for the fantastic, even the preposterous.

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What about Russian Seasons? Is there a story there? I have only seen clips (where musicality snd a slightly mischievous quality seemed dominate)?

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AMy, I wish I knew whatto think of Russian Seasons.

I've only seen SF Ballet do it, and like most San Franciscans, I found it impenetrable. I THINK it was set by someone other than Ratmansky; my SUSPICION is, they learned the steps but not the tone and flavor.

The boys fared best.

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What about Russian Seasons? Is there a story there? I have only seen clips (where musicality snd a slightly mischievous quality seemed dominate)?

What there is in "Russian Seasons" -- as well as in every other "abstract" Ratmansky ballet I've seen -- is a theatrically rich projection of a coherent community that gives the work the weight of drama even though it doesn't have a plot per se. Something is going on, and I think Ratmansky invites us to feel what it might be even if we can't isolate a storyline that can be put into words . Ditto "Namouna," where I think Ratmansky's ability to evoke a world and people it reached some kind of delicious, demented peak.

And Paul, I think you're really on to something in suggesting that "[Ratmansky's] work will benefit the most from dancers with a taste for the fantastic, even the preposterous."

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"A taste for the preposterous"... That certainly hits the mark for some of his most successful moments! I wonder if that is what has evolved beyond post-modern era... Enjoying the preposterous rather than cynically positing collaged clich├ęs.

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I have seen more Wheeldon and I wonder from his style if perhaps Wendy Whelan (known to me only by what I have heard and read by others) is the "Wheeldon ballerina" -- so far? Can others comment?

Does it have to be a ballerina? in my opinion, Wheeldon's ballets were better if he made them on Jock Soto.

Imagination has to be one of hte great characteristics a choreographer requires.

Whelan has it --

All of the above sound plausible to me. In a talk before one of MCB's performances earlier this month, Philip Neal -- the former NYCB principal -- mentioned that he often observed Wheeldon working with Whelan and Soto. Each time Neal passed the studio, the three of them were huddled closely either discussing or working on something. From this intimate collaboration -- and also from the bodies and movment styles of these two dancers -- came the pas de deux that MCB would be performing that evening: Liturgy.

I'm thinking also of Soto in Mercurial Manoeuvres. Wasn't the second movement created on him? With Whelan? (I've only seen Ringer.)

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Mercurial was created on Soto and Weese, with Liang in the solo principal role. I think the parts Wheeldon has created for Whelan tend to mirror or emulate the Balanchine leotard ballets. He takes full advantage of her flexibility and angular, neoclassical approach. In his more story driven ballets, he tends to use Tiler Peck, who has great dramatic skills. (Didn't Tiler originate Carousel A Dance with Woetzel? She definitely originated Estancia, which has a narrative "plot.") I loved Tiler in Mercurial earlier this season.

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Didn't Tiler originate Carousel A Dance with Woetzel?
No, Ansanelli, another dancer with great imagination and flair for story-dancing. I miss her.

I think the point about Balanchine schooling his dancers to become what he needed was key. I also think that, especially with choreographers like Wheeldon and Ratmansky -- essentially global freelancers, even if they are Choreographer in Residence somewhere or other) -- the most important quality they look for is the ability to understand what he wants of them. Sometimes -- you know? -- people just miscommunicate with each other. Especially in the arts, where suggestions may be more poetical than specific. And further complicated if the choreographer, working in a second language, uses a word with unintended nuance.

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Ratmansky ballets have deep emotional undercurrents in addition to their whimsical humor. The PdD, in Nutcracker, for example, are rapturous, and I think the ballerina who most exemplifies that aspect of Ratmansky is Veronika Part. IMHO she hasn't been given the opportunities at ABT that she deserves, and I so much hope that Ratmansky will choreograph a ballet on her the way Balanchine choreographed ballets specifically for one or another of his ballerinas over the years.

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