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"Freelance Freedoms," Alexei Ratmansky interview


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Very sad news: The Winter issue of Dance Now will be its last. Good news: It's a stunner. If you can get a copy, I strongly urge it.

One of the treasures is Marc Haegeman's interview with Alexi Ratmansky, departing artistic director of the Bolshoi and soon-to-be based at American Ballet Theater. Ratmansky talks about the nature of his arrangement with ABT and also, with surprising frankness, about his experience at the Bolshoi.

This will never be online, I suppose, so here are a few brief excerpts:

On the kind of work he likes and doesn't like:

Mentally it has been very difficult [being artistic director of the Bolsoi]. For a start what I don't like is to make some people happy that I don't like at all. But I had to. Sometimes there were hard decisions and dealing with two hundred personalities was too much of a pressure for me. I would rather work with a small group of dancers and do what -- I hope at least -- I do best, which is to inspire and work with a group of dancers to create something new. [ ...]

As a choreographer, for my own works, I have to select the dancers that I like best of all. But that's conflicting with being director. As a director I need to think about the whle group, every principal, soloist.

On programming new work at the Bolsho:i

What is ... good in my view is to formulate what is not so good about the Bolshoi dancers -- to understand what's wrong and to remedy it, to work on it. The precision is not there, the elegance isn't there, neither is the self-discipline in the context of an ensemble, the partnering could be better and so forth. To say it, to work on it, to turn the dancer's atention to it -- it's a painful but an essnetial process, and once you're there you've already found part of the remedy.

Even getting ballets like Serenade or Concerto Barocco made it so clear to them what's wrong: they could see their own shortcomings and mistakes. You can't hide the mistakes where you perform these ballets and so you have no choice but to work on it. Stylistically they may not be the most ideal additions to the repertoire, but as something to work on they are very important.

Once the repertoire bcomes more challenging, it acts like a magnet. It automatically attracts new talent. People from different companies arrive and want to join the Bolshoi. Also from the School we received some good talents.

On his future role at ABT:

... what I like most of all about this project with ABT is that it leaves me enough freedom to return to Russia and other places to choreograph. Of course, we [Kevin McKenzie and AR] talked about the repertoire and the choreographies I could be part of, but for now it's too soon to be specific about what I will do there. However, we have already planned a first ballet for this spring. Its a creation set to music by Sergei Prokofiev which will premiere during the Met season this June.

Has anyone else had the chance to read this interview? Any thoughts about Ratmansky at the Bolshoi or the future of Ratmansky at ABT and as a New York based freelance choreographer for ocmpanies around the world?

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