Profiles

ABT's Ratmansky Project Lays the Groundwork for Big Dreams

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

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?"

Instagram

Are you a total bunhead who loves to write? You might be the perfect fit for Pointe. We're seeking an editorial intern who's equally passionate about ballet and journalism.

Keep reading...
News
Manuel Legris at the Vienna State Opera. Michael Phon, Courtesy La Scala Ballet.

Former Paris Opéra Ballet etoile Manuel Legris has just been appointed artistic director of La Scala Ballet in Milan. Legris, who has directed the Vienna State Opera Ballet since 2010, posted on his Instagram page that he will assume his new position in December 2020. He replaces outgoing director Frédéric Olivieri. According to French news sites, Olivieri, who has led La Scala Ballet School since 2006, will continue to serve as the academy's director.

Keep reading...
News
Aran Bell and Catherine Hurlin in Of Love and Rage. Erin Baiano, Courtesy American Ballet Theatre.

This spring, American Ballet Theatre unveils Of Love and Rage, a new evening-length work based on an unlikely source: a tale of love and adventure written in the first century AD. We're all aware of Greek mythology, of the tragedies and of the Greek philosophers. But it is much less widely known that a writer by the name of Chariton penned what is likely the first romantic novel in Western literature, or at least the oldest that has survived: Callirhoe.

Keep reading...
Viral Videos

Earlier this month, 15-year-old American dancer Ava Arbuckle was one of eight scholarship winners at the Prix de Lausanne. For her classical selection, Arbukle, clad in an ultra-feminine, rosette-covered tutu, performed Flora's variation from The Awakening of Flora, Marius Petipa's 1894 one-act ballet about the Greek goddess of Spring. Back in 2007, historian and choreographer Sergei Vikharev reconstructed the work for the Mariinsky Ballet, with Evgenia Obraztsova, then a soloist at the Mariinsky and now principal at the Bolshoi Ballet, originating the titular Flora.

Keep reading...