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Alexei Ratmansky in rehearsal for Harlequinade with ABT's Blaine Hoven and Christine Shevchenko. Rosalie O'Connor, Courtesy ABT.

This year marks Alexei Ratmansky's 10th anniversary as artist in residence of American Ballet Theatre.

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ABT dancers in Alexei Ratmansky's Whipped Cream. Courtesy ABT.

Alexei Ratmansky's Whipped Cream, which American Ballet Theatre debuted in 2017, tells the story of a young boy who eats too many sweets, falls into a delirium, and is rescued by Princess Praline, who brings him to a world inhabited by fantastical confectionary characters. Last week the chefs at New York's Serendipity 3, the famous Upper East Side eatery best known for its frozen hot chocolate, tried their hand at bringing Ratmansky's ballet to life (or at least to the table). The result is Whipped Cream - The Sundae, available to diners from May 7-July 13.

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Dancers dressed as whipped cream. cakes and candies watch from the wings. Rachel Papo.

Photographed by Rachel Papo.

Choreographer Alexei Ratmansky has said that had he not come across the work of Mark Ryden, he might never have made his new ballet, Whipped Cream. Ratmansky, artist in residence at American Ballet Theatre, had been mulling the project for decades. He loved the music and the whimsical storyline imagined by composer Richard Strauss, about a boy who overindulges on whipped cream and falls ill and, in his delirium, dreams about dancing cakes and candies. Without a convincingly decadent set, though, he couldn't imagine how it would work. "I think the music demands richness onstage," says Ratmansky. He found what he was looking for in the visual world of painter Mark Ryden.

Ryden is known for detailed, dreamlike, flawlessly rendered and yet slightly unsettling canvases. Giant eyes peek out of tree stumps, and doll-like children mingle with skeletons or ride carriages pulled by centipedes. Though Ryden had never before worked in theater, his art is inherently theatrical.

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Photo by Gene Schiavone, Courtesy ABT

Fluffy snow yaks, dancing cupcakes and a slithering candy-cane worm. These, along with many more candy confections (and a creepy doctor with a massive head), make up the cast of characters in Alexei Ratmansky's new full-length Whipped Cream at American Ballet Theatre. The company, which performed the world premiere in California in March, is gearing up for the New York debut on May 22. Needless to say, there's been lots of anticipation over pop-surrealist Mark Ryden's fantastical costume and set designs.

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Alexei Ratmansky rehearses The Fairy's Kiss with Miami City Ballet dancers. (Photo by Daniel Azoulay, courtesy Miami City Ballet)

Choreographer Alexei Ratmansky will have world premieres on two coasts this winter. On February 10, Miami City Ballet will debut his new one-act version of The Fairy's Kiss to Stravinsky's celebrated score, a homage to Tchaikovsky. The following month, on March 15, at California's Segerstrom Center for the Arts, American Ballet Theatre will premiere his Whipped Cream, a new full-length story ballet to a Richard Strauss libretto and score.

Ratmansky has often looked to ballet history for inspiration. Fairy's Kiss, known as Le Baiser de la Fée when it was originally choreographed by Bronislava Nijinska in 1928, has been staged by Sir Frederick Ashton and Sir Kenneth MacMillan, and several times by Balanchine. Its story comes from The Ice-Maiden, a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, and Ratmansky has kept the narrative. A young man, about to be married, is bewitched by a fairy's kiss and stolen away from the mortal world. “I asked Alexei for a narrative work, possibly one with a Russian flavor to it," says MCB artistic director Lourdes Lopez. “Our dancers have a very strong dramatic quality and short narrative works are not a large part of our repertoire." Ratmansky had created an earlier version during his tenure at the Bolshoi Ballet; this is a new production with new choreography.

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Ratmansky rehearses "The Fairy's Kiss" with Miami City Ballet dancers. Photo by Daniel Azoulay, Courtesy MCB.

Choreographer Alexei Ratmansky will have world premieres on two coasts this winter. On February 10, Miami City Ballet debuted his new one-act version of The Fairy's Kiss to Stravinsky's celebrated score, a homage to Tchaikovsky. The following month, on March 15, at California's Segerstrom Center for the Arts, American Ballet Theatre will premiere his Whipped Cream, a new full-length story ballet to a Richard Strauss libretto and score.

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We've been breathlessly waiting to find out when David Hallberg will step out with American Ballet Theatre, and it sounds like L.A. audiences get to see him first. He's scheduled to debut the role of Prince Coffee in Alexei Ratmansky's Whipped Cream, on March 15 at the Segerstrom Center for the Performing Arts. His first performance back, after returning from injury, was his debut as Franz in Coppélia, with the Australian Ballet.

Whipped Cream sounds like a (more?) surreal take on The Nutcracker, featuring a boy who eats too many sweets and imagines a fantastical land populated by characters like Prince Coffee and Princess Praline.

New Yorkers will have to wait until May 22 for a reprise of the role. And while we're excited to see Hallberg back onstage, and we're always up for a new Ratmansky ballet, we're especially curious about the trippy costumes and sets, designed by Pop Surrealist Mark Ryden. They look a little bit creepy.

Some of Ryden's preliminary sketches

We can't wait!

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