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Ratmansky leaving Bolshoi helm


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Dear Natalia,

Thank you very much. I am Russian and love ballet. I can’t find information about Russian ballet tours. We saw Romeo and Juliet of St. Peterburg State Ballet Theatreon Sunday. It was amazing and great. We didn’t expect. I wrote to the Theater but they didn’t answer where they have performances now.


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I have translated some of the Bolshoi directorship articles from yesterday's Russian press. The details are interesting and the expressions of opinon are not held back. Two of the critics liken the appointmnt of Grigorovich alongside Burlaka as akin to Stalin being disinterred and brought back to life, offered a job as minister under Medvedev.

In an interview with Tatiana Kuznetsova in Kommersant headlined: "Ratmansky is succeeded by Burlaka and Grigorovich," Burlaka said that he liked being unknown & working at the quiet out-of-centre company in Kuzminki, the "Russian State Ballet." He had stayed there because he wanted to work in a company where 90 percent of the repertory was classical. He agreed that he "did not know well" the contemporary scene, but had been interested when he had danced Kylian, Neimeyer, Eifman. He had enjoyed the work of Jean Christoph Mayot (Mayo?). Mr Ixanov the general director had spoken to him about the job just 10 days before the appointment was announced. He had not known then that he would be Yuri Grigorovich's boss. Asked what he thought about it, he said that it was a large boulder which ... the interviewer finished for him, ... he could not move. He answered that everyone in the theatre was raised and educated on Grigorvich's ballets. Asked whether Grigorovich's versions of classics were immovable and imperishable, he said that G's outlook on classical productions to a certain extent advanced the choreographic process.

Q: If YG demanded that leading roles in his productions were danced by, say, Anastasia Volochkova, what then? A: I will argue with that... The BB's heritage dated from the end of the 18th century, including many and varied styles and different epochs which could all re-enter the company's repertoire.

Q: Contemporary creators? Are you limiting yourself to Ratmansky? A: Many choreographers in the west worthy of having their works performed at the Bolshoi, or any other theatre.

Q: Are you not frightened of being artistic director at the BB, which will not be a simple job? A: I will find a common language with the dancers and coaches. I am not by nature a quarrelsome person. It's necessary to examine each individual case for itself and think about it.

Kuznetsova commented separately that this is a directorship with two heads, and neither young Burlaka nor old Grigorovich is interested in contemporary choreography, underlined by the plans for the reopening of the restored theatre. The BB which has recently recovered its position in the first rank of world companies risks going backwards. Already the company considers that Grigorovich will be their future boss and not Burlaka who was in his cradle when YG won the Lenin prize for Spartacus. by their act the theatre directorship has set off a delayed-action bomb in the company.

Anna Gordeyeva in Vremya novostey: Although Burlaka is not well known in the country, he commands absolute respect in ballet circles for his academic work. For 20 years he has been soloist and then director of the Russian State Ballet, and last year worked with Ratmansky on the staging of Le corsaire.H is a cultured, clever and intelligent man. But one would rather sympathise with him than congratulate him on the appointment.

Ixanov had ensure that the job is not a pot of honey. Ratmansky being kept as guest choreographer, though the job is only an agreement at the moment, isn't too bad as he and Burlaka are good friends and speak the same language. What is more important, is the position of choreographer/balletmaster, offered to Yuri Grigorovich. In fact this is a deliberate undermining of the artistic directors job: whoever casts ballerinas in classical roles is the director of the theatre. Does Ixsanov understand what he has done? He is aware that he has never seen Grigorovich's Krasnodar company and cannot judge whether the choreograher is capable of sustaining his productions in continuing life (since your columnist has seen that company, we can say at once : he is not capable.) Ixanov is not prepared for the return of Grigorovich's beloved Anastasia Volochkova to the Bolshoi theatre. Everything would be agreed, he said, among the leaders "we are civilised people." Well, indeed. For 20 years the gloomy old man has not created a production, but reproduced copies of old ones in other companies (including some very bad ones,) preserving just one skill - for virtuoso intrigues. And the young, clever, talented dancemakers (Burlaka, Ratmansky, and next season's guest Sergei Vikarev) will come to agreement with him? Do they themselves agree about that?

Maya Krilova in gazeta.ru analysed the reasons why Ratmansky wanted to quit the directorship. Being at the Bolshoi in the job was stopping him reaching his own high standards as a choreographer, standards he had formed while working in the West for many years. In the Bolshoi dancers have become permitted to refuse to dance steps, just saying that they will change them. They would even alter them in performance to suit themselves.

Ratmansky's current scheduled presence in the rep consists of the remounting of 'Flames of Paris' in summer, running an autumn festival for the 50th anniversary of the careers of V Vassiliev and E Masimova, the transition period of working with Burlaka, and other work abroad. There is a general plan for him to make a new version of 'the Sleeping Beauty,' something that he has long wanted to do, for the reopening of the theatr in 2009. But she asks, will he in fact fulfill all this when Grigorovich is officially called up, and considering that all the Tchaikovsky ballets are entirely in Grigorovich's productions?

For that matter, Grigorovich's official job in the Bolshoi will be resident choreographer (ballet-master), even though that does not imply that he will produce any new ballets. He has not done for a long time. He will however vigilantly guard his ballet oeuvre from encroachments by people or time.

And who will get what in the distrbution of duty? Grigorovich has one, very large segment; Ratmansky another, in the staging of new ballets and his own future creations, to do which he will "pay court" to the company by periodic visits to Moscow (He will it is said be living in the US). All the rest comes down to Burlaka, ie the "no-mans-land" ballets, like Pharoah's daughter, Sylphide and Don Quixote. Apart from that, the AD is required to set casting. To find new names for the posters. And to correct members of the ballet triumvirate if they exceed their brief.

But this is only on paper. In reality the Bolshoi ballet anticipates a period of internal turbulence and unrest. A power struggle and an aggravation of "anarchy", all the more as Burlaka does not possess the iron authoritarian character that is needed here and that Grigorovich's presence underlines. This is a company unfortunately which better understands the whip than the kind word, and they take flexibility as weakness. Krilova said that artists should study the ballet La Sylphide to see what bad things happen when you pin down a dream.

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Happy 40th birthday to Alexei Ratmansky. From his birthday telegram* from President Dmitry Medvedev:

"You have received wide recognition both within Russia and abroad as a gifted dancer and choreographer - a true master, able to feel fine music and create unique, deep images on stage.

Talent and a sincere passion for the profession enable you to successfully guide the celebrated ballet troupe of the Bolshoi Theatre. I am sure you will continue to make a worthy contribution to the development of native culture and give joy to many viewers with excellent performances ".

* entry: 27/VIII-2008 11:20


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It's his birthday??? Thanks for that info, drb.

Nice tribute from Medvedev. Sounds like it was written by a true balletomane.

Happy Birthday from me, too! :flowers::yahoo:

You must be kidding! How would you know he is a true balletomane.It's true that there are some cultured politicians,but in most cases they have people to do that kind of thing for them.Reminds me of NIKITA congratulating Van Cliburn and talking about his interpretation of Chopin.

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On his Kremlin bio page the President makes no mention of dance, but is interested in music:

I still find time to listen to rock music. I began listening to it when I was about 13-14. A home-grown rock music scene was starting to develop in the Soviet Union at that time. Although it made use of the same musical principles, instruments and arrangements found all around the world, our rock music was always based very much on the texts too, unlike English-language rock music, which, to be honest, was always a lot more primitive. Our songs were protest songs, songs with a social message and simply music that was about our life, about all its different aspects.

But one needs to do more than just listen to rock music. One should listen to classical music too. Rock music and classical music are very close. Rock, jazz, and classical music are all part of one and the same musical process. One should also read good books - a real way to relax - and then everything will go well.

However his wife Svetlana, an economist, seems to have an interest in the arts:

Svetlana Medvedeva is involved in supporting social and cultural programmes in Russia and a number of European cities.

In 2006 she initiated the Russian Arts Festival in Bari, Italy, which now takes place as an annual event.

Svetlana Medvedeva is Chairwoman of the Board of Trustees of the targeted comprehensive programme ‘Spiritual and Moral Culture for the Youth of Russia’, established with the blessing of Patriarch Alexii II.

It would seem that retired President Putin was more of a ballet fan, as he has frequently been photographed presenting bouquets to ballerinas.


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Thanks, drd, for those links and for your insights. The government page for Medvedvev, rather like a 50s version designed by the old Saturday Evening Post, is quite an eye-opener as to political style in Russia today. One might almost guess that Norman Rockwell is alive and doing pr for the Kremlin. :wink::D

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It would seem that retired President Putin was more of a ballet fan, as he has frequently been photographed presenting bouquets to ballerinas.

I believe that Putin has always been seen passing out major awards to Russians such as the People's Artist of Russia (I've seen a picture of him awarding Mariinsky principal ballerina Diana Vishneva this very award, which was done just recently).

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Alexei Ratmansky's Gala is this Sunday, 28 December. Details of the Gala and of his plans have been appearing in the Russian press. New Izvestiya's December 23 interview covers his experiences at the Bolshoi and goes into some detail of his current artistic projects.


Probably the biggest news comes at the end of the piece, and concerns his next work for the Bolshoi. Due in two years, it will be Balzac's Lost Illusions, to a newly composed score by Leonid Desyatnikov [the composer of his Russian Seasons]. When asked by interviewer Maya Krylova "Why Balzac, do you want to respond to the old Soviet ballet of the same name that starred Galina Ulyanova?" Ratmansky answered:

I want to work with Desyatnikov on a new ballet. This is important. There will be no connection to the ballet of Asefiev--it does not exist and cannot be restored. The Balzac--a wonderful read!

The article begins with Ratmansky asked about his feelings leaving the Bolshoi and what he achieved and did not achieve:

I must take some time to assess my work here. So far can only say I am grateful for the experience of the Bolshoi, and to those who have supported me here. In terms of emotion there is devastation, the five years were tense and full of responsibility.

When I came to the theater, many performances (of course not all) seemed a perfect facade, it was unclear whether there was life or not, all was hidden behind pristine, graceful dances. I tried to pull out this life, help artists be themselves, not to be afraid to be alive in the scene, even in high classics. If you look at my performances at the Bolshoi--Bright Spring, Bolt, Le Corsaire, Flames of Paris--they show the direction of our work. Every dancer, even the newest in the corps de ballet, is important to me, even though the performances of some are very fragile, with mistakes...

He was asked whether Gergiev of the Mariinsky was ready to "give him paradise", free from administrative functions, so that he could implement only artistic leadership. Ratmansky said there was no conversation on this topic.

The choreographer listed his forthcoming projects. January: Shchedrin's Humpbacked Horse for the Mariinsky, April: Russian Seasons for the San Francisco Ballet, June: ABT's On the Dnieper, end of summer: in Australia Carlo Goldoni's Scuola di Ballo, story of an 18th C. ballet troupe with a Prima, wealthy patrons, talented new debutante etc. He is also in negotiations with Sergei Filin's Moscow Musical Theater, nothing yet finalized.

After some talk on the shortage of choreographers for the classical vocabulary and on his ABT contract, Ms. Krylova asked him "Is it true that Natalia Osipova goes to ABT on your recommendation?"

The truth is that she was invited, but not [merely] because of my recommendation. She is already world famous. Starting in 2009, Osipova will "guest star" during New York City seasons at the Metropolitan Opera House with the same status as Nina Ananiashvili and Diana Vishneva.

The Bolshoi's site now lists the dancers and choreographers for the December 28 Gala. Wendy Whelan and Craig Hall will represent America, presumably dancing the PdD from After the Rain. Ratmansky's Leah will be danced by Nina Ananiashvili probably with Uvarov as partner. Diana Vishneva will dance (perhaps in his Mariinsky Cinderella). Recently retired Sergei Filin is also on the schedule. Svetlana Zakharova is one of very few principals who will perform, having danced his work at the Mariinsky and elsewhere, and recently having scored a sensation in Russian Seasons at the Bolshoi. The young stars Mr. Ratmansky has developed will otherwise dominate at the event.

For those wondering about the lack of principals, his difficulties will senior Bolshoi stars is somewhat covered in his Ismene Brown interview that can be found under her thread in Writings on Ballet, or directly at:


This latter article also includes his commentary on why he was not allowed to produce a new Sleepinig Beauty to replace Grigorovich's production at the Bolshoi this year. May be interesting news to ABT fans...

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Many thanks, drb!

One question though: "After the Rain" is Wheeldon. Would Whelan and Hall not be dancing Ratmansky's choreography, from "Russian Seasons", which was choroegrapher for her, Evans, Sylve, and Ringer?

It's great to hear about the beginning of what may another choreographer/composer team: Ratmansky and Desyatnikov.

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Here is TV-5's coverage of the Gala, including dance footage and a short interview with Nina Ananiashvili, who brought many to tears dancing Ratmansky's Leah, in which she says "He is a talented person who sees in his own way, hears in his own way. Someone says, 'Alexei, it can't be done.' And he rises to do it." She also praises his 'plastic.' Text in Russian is given on the video's page ('tho you can increase picture size to full screen) that you can have google translate:


Russia's YouTube has a collection of videos. So far the Vishneva Cinderella, Ananiashvili Leah and the final curtain calls, in which one may see NYCB's Wendy Whelan and Craig Hall, who had danced Wheeldon's After the Rain PdD (praise given to their plastic and the perfection with which he managed many difficult partnering maneuvers):


Too many reviews to recount. In general, considered a brilliantly produced gala--it would seem that during his reign Ratmansky has revolutionarily improved the quality of Russian Galas.

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