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‘More Than Pretty Dances’: Alexei Ratmansky’s Alliance With Ballet Theater

Category: Art & Culture,Dance

A few days ago, Mr. Ratmansky, 50, reflected on his relationship to the company and to New York, and on his own evolution as a choreographer over the past decade. Here are edited excerpts from the conversation.

When you first came to Ballet Theater, did you think you would stay as long as you have?

It’s surprising even to me! Before I came to New York there was a pattern in my life. Every six or seven years, or even less, I felt like I need to start anew. First, as a dancer, I was looking for interesting repertory, then I was looking for a place to choreograph. And then I was invited to direct the company in Moscow.

But here, I can do what I love the most, serve the company and its needs, which is very important, but also pursue projects that are interesting and inspiring in other places. It feels like the right balance.

How has your relationship with the dancers evolved over that time?

The first experience with “On the Dnieper” [2009] we were trying to impress each other. The next one, “Seven Sonatas,” was probably the most difficult. It was like we didn’t understand each other. I think it was about breaking old habits.

What changed?

Before my eyes, the company switched its focus, from a company of international stars to a real company with its own dancers. I think it was a healthy transition. It took time to give fruit and I think it’s beginning to pay off. There are dancers in the company now, like Catherine Hurlin and Tyler Maloney, who I’ve worked with since they were kids in the company school. They understand my style really well.

What aspects of New York have fed your imagination?

Exhibitions. The Metropolitan Museum. Sometimes I go every week. Lately I’ve mostly been visiting the Roman and Greek antiquities. And the Asian collection. You can keep going back for years and always discover new things.

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