Alexei Ratmansky with members of the corps de ballet. Photo by Gene Schiavone, Courtesy American Ballet Theatre.

ABT's Ratmansky Project Lays the Groundwork for Big Dreams

When the choreographer Alexei Ratmansky joined American Ballet Theatre as artist in residence eight years ago, the company hadn't had a house choreographer since the days of Antony Tudor. The gamble seems to have paid off handsomely. In that time Ratmansky has either made or restaged 12 ballets for the company. In 2011, the company extended his contract to 2023. Such commitments are practically unheard of at a time when top dancers and choreographers hop from company to company, continent to continent. The scale and ambition of the works Ratmansky is making for ABT is a rarity too, in a world of tight budgets, scant rehearsal time and pared-down esthetics.


Set design for new "Harlequinade." Courtesy ABT.


But big ideas and continuity are expensive. To make such projects feasible, ABT launched The Ratmansky Project in early 2016, a fundraising campaign specifically geared to funding new or restaged Ratmansky ballets. The goal is to bring in $15 million over five years. By the time the campaign was announced last spring, it had already funded three works: Serenade after Plato's Symposium, The Golden Cockerel and Whipped Cream. The latter two involve lavish designs, as will a new Harlequinade, scheduled to premiere in March.


Alexei Ratmansky. Photo by Gene Schiavone, Courtesy ABT.

As ABT's new executive director, Kara Medoff Barnett, points out, "the cost to produce each new full-length ballet is roughly $3 million. And we want to produce a full-length Ratmansky ballet or several new one-act works each year." In the next nine months, Ratmansky will create a new ballet, Songs of Bukovina, with music by the Ukrainian-born composer Leonid Desyatnikov, for the company's fall season, and another big reconstruction, Marius Petipa's 1900 commedia dell'arte ballet Harlequinade. Petipa has become an important source of inspiration. "I learn from the diversity of steps, the changes of mood," says Ratmansky. "All the things that are so brilliantly clear in Petipa's creations."

Not every new Ratmansky ballet will be on the scale of Harlequinade, but, as Barnett comments, "ABT is a company known for theater, for storytelling and spectacle. Why should we limit the imagination of the world's leading ballet storyteller?"

Latest Posts


Pacific Northwest Ballet's Sarah-Gabrielle Ryan, photographed by Jayme Thornton for Pointe

The Radiant Sarah-Gabrielle Ryan: Why She's One to Watch at Pacific Northwest Ballet

Hollywood could make a movie about Sarah-Gabrielle Ryan's big break at Pacific Northwest Ballet.

It was November 2017, and the company was performing Crystal Pite's film-noir–inspired Plot Point, set to music by Bernard Hermann from Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho. Ryan, then a first-year corps member, originally was understudying the role of another dancer. But when principal Noelani Pantastico was injured in a car accident, Ryan was tapped to take over her role.

Keep reading SHOW LESS

#TBT: Maria Alexandrova, Maria Allash and Yevgeny Ivanchenko in "Swan Lake"

While not nearly as common as the pas de deux, the pas de trois is a frequent feature in classical ballets that poses its own unique challenges. The seamless braiding of three dancers, in which all can equally shine, is no easy feat. In this clip from 2002, the Bolshoi Ballet stars Maria Alexandrova and Maria Allash and Mariinsky Ballet principal Yevgeny Ivanchenko, achieve that synergy in this sumptuous pas de trois from Act I of Swan Lake.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Yonah Acosta in Sin La Habana, Courtesy Miami Film Festival

The Miami Film Festival Is Streaming 2 Films Spotlighting Cuban Ballet Dancers, Including Yonah Acosta

Many ballet companies are sharing digital productions these days, but if you want to get your ballet fix on the silver screen, the Miami Film Festival has something for you—and you don't have to fly to Miami to see it! Two ballet-centric films, the drama Sin La Habana (Without Havana) and documentary Cuban Dancer, will be featured in theaters and virtually at the 38th annual Miami Film Festival, running March 5 to 14.

Keep reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks