The Creation of a New Classic
Q&A with Choreographer Alexei Ratmansky
January 30, 2020


Alexei Ratmansky had been ascending the ranks of major international choreographers even before assuming the Artistic Directorship of the Bolshoi Theatre in 2004. After his dancing career, which had taken him from his native Russia to the Ukraine, Denmark and Canada, where he danced with Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet, he began his choreographic career in earnest, creating works for companies such as the Dutch National Ballet, Kirov Ballet, The Royal Danish Ballet, The Royal Swedish Ballet, New York City Ballet and San Francisco Ballet.
Ratmansky was credited for breathing new life into the Bolshoi’s famously rigorous style, while still preserving their classical elan. In works such as The Bolt, Le Corsaire and Jeu de Cartes, his expansive, now internationally experienced sensibility re-energized the legendary company and caught the attention of other companies in Europe and North America. His subsequent appointment as Artist-in-Residence with American Ballet Theatre in 2009 only helped to broaden and solidify his position as one of contemporary ballet’s leading creative forces, known for his mastery of the classical idiom and for his ability to create story ballets that actually tell stories, as well as a dazzlingly original approach to infusing the classical vocabulary with a modern spirit.

When and how did you decide to create a new Romeo and Juliet for the company?
There was a call from Karen Kain and she asked if I was interested in doing Romeo and Juliet. I thought about it and couldn’t say no because it’s the greatest ballet score ever written. It was an amazing opportunity which I didn’t want to miss.
How long ago did you start to think about the production?
I received the call from Karen in 2008, so that’s when I started to think about the production. I knew I wanted Richard Hudson to create the sets and costumes; we worked together on the new Nutcracker I created for American Ballet Theatre.
What qualities were you looking for in the dancers?
We need to believe that they are madly in love and they would take their own lives because they can’t live without each other. It’s a rare quality to be able to project that kind of passion. And of course they need to be very good dancers to tell the story through the steps.
What are you hoping audiences will take away from the ballet?
I want them to be moved by the story. The music already does a big part of the job because it’s so emotional but they need to be inside the story from the first moment. I want to tell it honestly and make it feel fresh and new – the same story but told using fresh images, fresh voices. I’m hoping that the audience will be moved by what they see.



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