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Ratmansky to become ABT resident choreographer

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I don't want to rain on anybody's parade here, but I can't seem to share this almost unanimous enthusiasm about Ratmansky. His success at Bolshoi was to a great extent conditioned by the stars he worked with: Zakharova, Alexandrova, Osipova. There are no ballerinas of their caliber at ABT presently. Except for Vishneva, but if you saw what Ratmansky "choreographed" for her in Pierrot Lunnaire, you wouldn't be holding your breath waiting for their next effort.

In general, Ratmansky is not about the theatrical, dramatical side of the ballet, but the pure dance (as he understands it). Again, just look at the atrocious Cinderella that he dumped on Mariinsky - for me it's absolutely the worst version of the Prokofiev masterpiece that I have ever seen (and I've seen quite a few).

It's possible that he would be able to contribute to the ABT Fall Season, but full-length "drama ballet" are not really his forte.

A lot of people in Moscow are really happy to see him go, so I've been wondering why everybody seems to be so upbeat about him on this side of the Atlantic.

Is that so? Besides he only goes as artistic director, he remains as choreographer.

Ratmansky never worked with Zakharova. Nor did he hardly ever create anything for individuals within the Bolshoi context: he created for the company. Bright Stream, Bolt, Le Corsaire, Flames of Paris, are all full-length often very theatrical, dramatic company ballets; Card Game is a one-act piece, but also essentially a company ballet. His creation for Vishneva is flawed, simply because Ratmansky had to create a star vehicle for her, which is not his favorite way of working.

Osipova danced Kitri, Gamzatti, In The Upper Room, Giselle, Sylphide... I don't see what that has to do with Ratmansky's success, except that he has an eye for talent (although in her case it's that obvious one really needs to be blind not to acknowledge it and give her the chances.)

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A lot of people in Moscow are really happy to see him go, so I've been wondering why everybody seems to be so upbeat about him on this side of the Atlantic.

There are many in Moscow who sincerely regret Ratmansky's decision to leave Bolshoi, at the same time understanding the reasons.

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..... just look at the atrocious Cinderella that he dumped on Mariinsky - for me it's absolutely the worst version of the Prokofiev masterpiece that I have ever seen...

I agree with you on the assessment of Ratmansky's Cinderella; I saw it twice at a Mariinsky Festival a few years ago.

BUT I've also seen The Bright Stream and Le Corsaire, both full-evening works, both works for which Ratmansky (in Corsaire along Burlaka's) provided classically based choreography that, in my view, would enrich any company's repertoire.

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McKenzie's Nutcracker is . . . an experience. I'm not sure I can explain it any better without resorting to pithy anglo-saxonisms.

There are unicorns.

Not to push this thread further off topic, but I can't believe ABT is still performing McKenzie's Nutcracker or that people are actually going to see it. I wish they would do Mary Day's charming version, but I guess charm is not what they're going for.

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I'll defend his "Cinderella," too. I did not like it (nor think it good) when I first saw it, but I changed my mind after several viewings. There's a lot there. I think he understands classical ballet -- its history, its aesthetic, its point -- very well and I'm looking forward to see what he does with it. (I think you can see that in "Bright Stream" and "The Bolt," too.)

It's also worth noting that both "Cinderella" and the RDB's "Nutcracker" were Mr. Fix It jobs -- Ratmansky was brought in to choreograph a ballet when the original choreographer pulled out, and was stuck with designs and Concepts created by someone else.

Here's a link to my review of "Cinderella".

Bleak House

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Ratmansky never worked with Zakharova.

Then she must have a body double impersonating her in Le Corsaire :)

Le Corsaire was the major classical revival of 2006/7 mounted by Ratmansky and Yuri Burlaka. Zakharova danced the premiere simply as prima of the company (who had danced it several times before with the Mariinsky); this didn't imply any special collaboration with Ratmansky.

What makes Ratmansky's directorship of the Bolshoi remarkable is that by trying to blend the various layers of the Bolshoi tradition with the present, he gave his dancers a very challenging repertory, choreographically and musically. Whether it were creations, foreign import or revivals from the Bolshoi's own past, somehow it often brought out the best of them. The result is there: the company looks better, more vibrant and interesting than ever in recent times. I don't see any point in ignoring that simple fact, but of course for that you need to have seen them.

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Lots of news coming out of Russia. While numerous papers have basically just reported on the first NY Times article, there have been others giving new information. None more exciting than the "speculation" in today's Izvestia article* by Svetlana Naborschikova:

In the U.S. the former Bolshoi leader will be pleased to meet with his former colleagues Nina Ananiashvili and Diana Vishneva, long settled in as American Ballet Theater guest stars. It is possible that with his emergence there will also come new stars. In particular, it is quite likely that Bolshoi's "child-prodigies" Natalia Osipova and Ivan Vasilev will follow their leader there.

In the case of Ms. Osipova, this is consistent with a Russian Bazaar article last June 5 by Nina Alovert, when she reported that, after the YAGP Gala in which Osipova and Mr. Vasiliev danced the Flames of Paris PdD, ABT asked the young ballerina to be a guest artist for the up-coming ABT Met Season, and that Ms. Osipova would dance here then.

In addition to reporting the basics of his agreement with ABT, the article also suggests that ABT was more willing than was NYCB to permit "excessive employment" of Mr. Ratmansky in other international projects.

I will try to report specifics from other articles, including an interview with Mr. Ratmansky, in another post.

* http://www.izvestia.ru/culture/article3120476/

[the lower of the two articles on this page]

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Russian News and Information Agency (rian) published an article including a short interview* by Ilya Pitalev with Alexei Ratmansky on Saturday, 13 September. A summary of Mr. Ratmansky's remarks:

He will begin working on his first production for ABT in April, a ballet to music by Prokoviev that will have its premiere in June.

Regarding whether he will continue working with The Bolshoi:

Without a doubt.

I am not going to interrupt my relations with the Bolshoi Theater, where I had the good fortune to work. Fortunately, my [administrative] work with the troupe is done, and my works will go to the Bolshoi repertoire. With regard to the current - 233rd season - my last production at this stage as the artistic director will be the ballet "Russian Seasons" to music by Leonid Desyatnikov. The premiere is scheduled for November 15, 2008.

I already have planned, following my departure from The Bolshoi, a project for the future - most likely it will in 2010-11 - a production of a classic ballet for which new music will be composed.

The article also includes already reported details of his ABT position, and lists awards he has received.

Other recent news articles have mentioned his version of The Little Humpbacked Horse being set for the Mariinsky, a forthcoming perfomance of his Anna Karenina in Helsinki, and that he is making a work for Mikhail Baryshnikov to a waltz-fantasy by Glinka. There will be a farewell gala for him this December in Moscow.

* http://www.rian.ru/culture/20080913/151240670.html

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New Russian articles about Mr. Ratmansky continue to appear, but today there is one from the Ukraine* by Olga Ostroverh about his early efforts at choreography in Kiev. He danced there from 1986-1992, before going to the Royal Winnipeg Ballet in 1992, where he was a Principal from 1993-1995. He (and his dancer wife Tatiana) returned to Kiev, because, the article reports, the well-known dancer was promised a chance to choreograph. Omitted are the already familiar facts of his employment at The Bolshoi, non-employment at NYCB, and contract with ABT.

I will add details to the article within [ ... ] when it seems appropriate.

...The first efforts of the famous choreographer were set in Kiev in the mid-'90s, resulting in his being banished. In 1997, after hopeless conflicts with the leadership of the National Opera of the Ukraine, Alexei Ratmansky left Kiev after enduring for two years. Probably, this was the most absurd period in his creative life. During this time, Ratmansky learned that a well-known dancer may dance just once every few months, but his choreography caused irreparable damage to Ukrainian dancers.


His first choreography was for dancers in the 1994 International Ballet Competition Serge Lifar [the Grand Prix was won by Kiev Principal Irina Dvorovenko]. It was at this competition that residents of Kiev saw lovely choreographic miniatures by the beginner ballet master - the eccentric Whipped Cream [created in Winnipeg, he had not yet moved back to Kiev] and a romantic duet. This was a success with the public and taken with enthusiasm by young Kiev dancers, for whom the original and contemporary dance language was a discovery.

However, there was already some displeasure within the company's administration.

"Not worthy!" - "What's with the inverted feet, what is this strange plastic?" They wanted his dancing in the classical "Giselle" and "The Nutcracker". But as a choreographer - God forbid!

Ratmansky did not surrender without a fight. Rehearsing in bits during ballet classes, the choreographer and a group of young dancers prepared a one-act ballet, Stravinsky's The Fairy's Kiss, of amazing beauty. With these dancers he prepared an evening of choreography - but the theater refused him any support [the ballet was performed at the Mariinsky in 1998]. With this the relationship with the National Opera was exhausted.

His last Kiev production was set in the Children's Theatre of Opera and Ballet, an ingenious animation of naive paintings of French painter Henri Rousseau... Soon he accepted an invitation from the Danish Royal Ballet.

An official from the company was approached for comment, but declined to discuss events of "more than a decade ago."

* http://24.ua/news/show/id/65304.htm

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......Other recent news articles have mentioned his version of The Little Humpbacked Horse being set for the Mariinsky....

Thank you, drb! This would be a biggie. I sincerely hope that it will be a recreation of the old classic Petipa/Ivanov-after-St-Leon version set to Pugni music, rather than the version to Schedrin's score that was a Soviet-era favorite. I believe that the Tsarist-Era LHH is among the ballets in Harvard's Sergeyev Collection. Ratmansky (with Burlaka) has worked with these notes in the past -- restaging Petipa's version of Corsaire for the Bolshoi -- so I am thinking positively. What a treat it would be to see a full-evening-long 19th-C-style LHH in our lifetime! I am a big fan of the existing tidbits from the old version, e.g., 'Enchanted Island' scene for female classical corps, Frescoes Pas de Quatre, Ocean and Two Pearls pas de trois, the Act IV national dances like Russian, Ukrainean and Hungarian. To see these in the context of a complete ballet would be heavenly.

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Here's a chance to hear what Ratmansky has to say about working with ABT and other topics:

Alexei Ratmansky

talks with Joan Acocella

The former artistic director of the Bolshoi Ballet School and American Ballet Theatre’s Artist in Residence will discuss his work with The New Yorker’s dance critic.

Saturday, October 4th, at 1 p.m. ($25)

Acura Stage at Cedar Lake Theatre

547 West 26th Street

Tickets available at festival.newyorker.com or by calling 800-440-6974. Tickets will also be sold during Festival weekend at Festival HQ, Metropolitan Pavilion, 125 West 18th Street, and at the door. Please note that purchases are subject to service charges.

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