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Ratmansky's "On the Dnieper"

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After all the excitement about ABT's new choreographer-in-residence and the announcement of his June Prokofiev premiere, perhaps it is time to anticipate Alexei Ratmansky's On the Dnieper. Prokofiev's 1932 40 minute ballet in two scenes (Opus 51) is programatic, with 12 segments. Four years later came his Romeo and Juliet, longer, with 52 segments. To my ear the earlier work "sounds" very similar to the latter, in orchestration and style.

Its Paris Opera premiere by Serge Lifar was a flop, despite admiration for the score (by Stravinsky, among others). Lifar chose to ignore the scenario, treating it as an abstract suite of dances. The scenario:


Scene 1: The Meeting

Scene 1: Mime Scene

Scene 1: Pas de deux

Scene 1: Variation for the First Dancer

Scene 2: Betrothal

Scene 2: Bridegroom's Dance

Scene 2: Bride's Dance

Scene 2: Men's Dance

Scene 2: The Fight

Scene 2: Mime Scene


ABT is apparently willing to give Mr. Ratmansky impressive support for his company debut, as signified by signing the husband and wife duo Semyon Pastukh (sets) and Galina Solovyeva (costumes). Mr. Pastukh won Golden Masks (Russia's Cultural "Oscar") for Semyon Kotko (Prokofiev's opera shown in New York in 2006 by the Opera of the Mariinsky Theater) and for Alexei Ratmansky's ballet The Bolt. It will certainly be interesting to see where, between strict narrative and the sublime subtlety of Russian Seasons, the choreographer places his new work.

The Dnieper, a river in the Ukraine, attained a far different identity 11 years after the ballet's Lifar premiere. In late 1943 The Dnieper Line, on which Hitler had ordered his army to stand or die, was pierced by the Red Army. I wonder if this might somehow resonate in the new ballet?

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