36 MARCH 2017
sophisticated, flowing—it begs to be choreographed to. I hope within this
simple and slight story, I can reflect on something deeper.
What attracted you to Mark Ryden’s style?
I don’t want this to become just another dancing-sweets ballet. His vision
corresponds with the roiling, dark material that is Strauss below the waltzing.
This isn’t the first time you’ve restaged a ballet that, for one reason or
another, didn’t have a life after its first performance.
Sometimes it’s just bad luck. The new director comes and doesn’t like this
production and now it’s gone forever. What survives or what doesn’t—I don’t
think there’s fairness there. Of course there are masterpieces and weak works,
but then there are strong works that did not have a lucky life, and there are
poor works that go through popular periods. At the end of the day, poor works
will be forgotten. But the masterpieces could be forgotten as well.
You have been ABT’s artist in residence since 2009. Is there a benefit to
often working with the same dancers?
It’s great to have a base at ABT, but I wouldn’t generalize. Having new
dancers to work with can lead you somewhere you’ve never been before.
With a new company, the dancers look at you like, “How can you inspire us?”
It’s extra pressure. If you don’t have that, if the dancers know it’s going to
work, or even if it doesn’t, that they can benefit from the process, it’s a great
help. With ABT, we’ve been through successes and failures, small ballets, big
ballets, and I really treasure the trust the dancers have in me.
Does the ABT style work well for you?
French have different strengths, Russians have different strengths, New York
City Ballet dancers have different strengths. You have two choices. One, you
can really show off their strengths. But there is an even more interesting way:
to challenge them, to give them something that isn’t so easy the first day,
but, if they master it, will develop them as dancers.
Your ballets explore human traits—humor, desire, longing. What draws
you to that?
It’s partly my training. Russian dancers never separate the dancing from the
acting. We’re taught to feel the movement with a certain color that could
read as emotion. You need to explain a movement’s motivation to a dancer,
like, “You do a port de bras as if you were saying such-and-such.” When the
movement is not just steps, it wakes up a part of them and they feel satisfied.
You often go back to material that has inspired other choreographers,
like The Fairy’s Kiss. Why?
There is a reason why some scores are popular. Of course, you don’t want to
play with Serenade or Symphony in C, or, from my point of view, Sleeping
Beauty or Swan Lake. Fairy’s Kiss was done by Nijinska, Balanchine, MacMillan,
but still there is not a definitive version, which gives you a chance. Because the
Stravinsky music [which uses Tchaikovsky melodies] is so beautiful, it’s tempting
to try. To be honest, I’ve done it twice already, but it didn’t work, both times.
But maybe at this stage of my development or life, I can do it.
It’s a very strange story.
If you take it as a story, yes, but if you take it as a creative metaphor, it works
perfectly. I follow Stravinsky, who said that Tchaikovsky was kissed by the fairy,
and that it was a fatal kiss. It’s an exaggeration, but the story tells that on
the day of a young man’s wedding, the fairy who kissed him when he was a
baby reappears and claims him as hers, and takes him away from his earthly
happiness. It is sad and profound, and in a large sense it’s true. You must
choose who you serve. I think anyone who is creating something goes through
conflict. It does not need to be a drama, but it can be an anxious time.
Your work taps a lot of emotions.
When I listen to music with a story or with hints of a story, there is a feeling that
tells me that it’s going to work. It’s like my heart is taken—it’s a physical thing.
It’s a little cue. I treasure this little bell when I have it—and it’s rare. n
This is Ratmansky’s third time
choreographing The Fairy’s Kiss.