Alexei Ratmansky and American Ballet Theatre are a match made in ballet heaven. The artist in residence has a 10-year contract with ABT, and has choreographed abstract and narrative ballets for the company such as The Bright Stream, The Nutcracker and Firebird. At the Guggenheim’s Works & Process on Sunday, ballet mistress Nancy Raffa, and principal David Hallberg discussed what it’s like to work with Ratmansky. Apparently, Ratmansky comes to the studio very prepared, with his 2×4 inch black book containing choreography to each count of the score. “The creative flow is in full force everyday,” said Raffa. Hallberg described Ratmansky as being extremely meticulous, and values not only excellence in technique but also the musicality and phrasing. “Sometimes we think to ourselves, ‘He can move on, doesn’t he know the premiere is in two weeks?’ ” said Hallberg, who added that for almost every premiere, the ballet is not quite ready yet, as if Ratmansky doesn’t want the creative process to end. “What he makes valid in ballet is that it is never enough.”
At the Works & Process, principals Marcelo Gomes and Polina Semionova performed an excerpt from Ratmansky’s latest work, choreographed to Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 9. Comprised of three one-act ballets, Ratmansky described the currently untitled ballet as story-less but not abstract. The first of the trilogy will have its premiere at New York City Center on October 18.
Some interesting facts about Ratmansky:
• Ratmansky trained under Pyotr Pestov at the Bolshoi Academy, and he recalled how Pestov used to make them do allegro combinations to adagio tempo.
• He first started choreographing on himself and his wife Tatiana Kilivniuk.
• Ratmansky was 34 years old when he became the artistic director of the Bolshoi Ballet, leading 220 dancers and 20 coaches. Ratmansky brought in 13 new ballets in five years, including repertoire by Twyla Tharp, Christopher Wheeldon and George Balanchine. He left the Bolshoi to realize himself as a choreographer.
American Ballet Theatre’s Fall 2012 season at New York City Center will run from October 16-20, with performances of Alexei Ratmansky’s premiere on October 18, 19, 20.
UPCOMING WORKS & PROCESS
Royal Danish Ballet: La Bayadère. Watch the livestream of the October 21 performance at 7:30 pm EDT at ustream.tv/worksandprocess. I’ll also be hosting a conversation about the performance on Twitter. Follow @emdanceballet @WorksandProcess and #WPlive.