ABT's bright choreographer, Alexei Ratmansky
Considered by many the leading ballet choreographer of today –- the man most likely to enrich the art form in the 21st century -- Alexei Ratmansky represents a distinctive blend of traditions. Trained at the Bolshoi Ballet School in the late Soviet era, he went on to dance in Canada and Denmark before being named artistic director of the Bolshoi in 2004.
Now comfortably and productively settled in as American Ballet Theatre’s artist in residence (he recently extended his initial five-year commitment there for another 10), Ratmansky is rapidly expanding that company’s repertory with works that reflect his personal experiences as well as his deep fascination with ballet history.
For “The Bright Stream,” his robustly comic 2003 ballet that ABT performs this week at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, he closely followed the original libretto from the original 1935 version of this ballet, which was banned by Stalin and never seen again. Along with its distinctly Russian setting (a Soviet agricultural collective) and characters, the ballet’s engaging sense of community reflects Ratmansky’s experience dancing for six years with the Royal Danish Ballet, where older mime artists are crucial to the venerable ballets.
“The Bright Stream,” set to a long-neglected Shostakovich score, not only features four prominent principal roles, but gives former ABT members such as Martine van Hamel, Victor Barbee and Susan Jones a chance to showcase their comic timing amid the ballet’s boisterous romantic misadventures. “Copenhagen was fascinating, a great place for me to develop. What other place, besides Paris, has that classical historical tradition?” Ratmansky said during a recent interview in New York. “I tried to learn everything that I could there – the whole Bournonville tradition, telling stories through dance and miming.”
Above all, it was encountering the Shostakovich music that motivated him.” I thought it was the best score I’d heard in quite a while. For me, the most important thing was honoring Shostakovich.”
For the Arts & Books profile of the choreographer, click here.
Photo: Alexei Ratmansky in rehearsal in New York. Credit: Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times