Alexei Ratmansky, his reconstruction of “Swan Lake” and his long-awaited premiere by the Miami City Ballet
Alexei Ratmansky’s recreation of the original staging of Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov’s “Swan Lake” will finally have its North American premiere on Friday at the Adrienne Arsht Center in Miami.
This reconstruction finds its origin in the notations of works from the repertoire created under the direction of Nikolay Sergeev (1876-1951), dancer, choreographer and manager of the Mariinsky Ballet from 1894 to 1918. Sergeev left Russia in 1919, taking with him the ratings. .
Almost three years have passed since Lourdes López, Artistic Director of Miami City Ballet and winner of the “A Life for Dance” award at the last Miami International Ballet Festival, announced in March 2019 the premiere of “Swan Lake” as the big event of the company’s 35th anniversary season. We all know what happened next, with the outbreak of COVID-19.
Ratmansky needs no introduction in Miami as MCB already has three of his works in its repertoire: “Symphonic Dances” (2012), “The Fairy’s Kiss” (2017) and “Concerto DSCH” (2018). So, taking advantage of his presence in Miami to supervise the last rehearsals, we asked him several questions.
What does MCB have that keeps you coming back?
“The legacy of Balanchine and Edward Villella, the leadership of Lourdes Lopez, the trust and friendship of the dancers.”
To what do you attribute the appeal and popularity of Petipa/Ivanov’s “Swan Lake” 126 years after its original staging?
“For the truly brilliant score, the beautiful and poetic story and the brilliant choreography.”
What were the biggest challenges in reconstructing Petipa/Ivanov’s original choreography?
“There are original steps that are extremely difficult even for today’s dancers. Moreover, it is not easy to succeed in the pantomime because the dancers (and the spectators) now understand it little. The mime should be lively and interesting to watch. We are working on it.”
What was the greatest satisfaction?
“Seeing the logic and inspiration of the original choreographers return to the ballet they created in 1895. Seeing it come to life.”
How to avoid that the reconstruction of a classic is a work that interests only “connoisseurs”?
“To inspire dancers to make it their own.”
How reliable are the notations of the time to affirm that what we will see is the original version? For example, is it possible for another choreographer to present a different reconstruction based on the same annotations?
“The notations show choreography performed during Petipa’s lifetime (in the early 1900s). This is the closest thing to the original 1895 choreographic text. If the stager follows exactly what is notated, the result will be more or less the same. However, there are some shortcomings in the scoring. And this must be filled according to the taste and knowledge of the stager.
The first staging of this reconstruction took place in Zurich and the second in Milan. In an interview, you compared the two productions and explained their differences. What’s the difference with the Miami version?
“The Miami version is closer to Zurich in terms of the number of dancers on stage (the La Scala company is bigger). The Hungarian and Goblet dances are slightly reworked. For some castings, we separated the role of Benno and the male lead in Pas de Trois (as was the case in the original). In Zurich and Milan, it was played by one person. But some MCB dancers will play both roles at the same time.
How was the experience of staging “Swan Lake” with the MCB dancers?
“It pushes MCB dancers out of their comfort zone. But they’re ready to go, and it’s very satisfying. I’m not talking about the obvious COVID challenges. Like hidden repeats, postponements, cancellations, etc. The past two years have been extremely difficult for ballet people.
Today, it must be difficult to find dancers who don’t have a fixed idea of the interpretation of the main characters – Odette/Odile, Prince Siegfried – of “Swan Lake”. So how do you work with those who have performed other versions before?
“Each major company has its own production of ‘Swan Lake’, so ideas vary. I can always tell if the dancer has a pre-established idea of a role, then try to gently guide them into the new understanding.
In Miami, a large audience of Cuban descent loves ballet and knows Alicia Alonso’s version of “Swan Lake”, “from the original by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov”. Do your reconstruction and Alonso’s interpretation have anything in common?
“Alonso is probably my favorite performer of the role of Odette/Odile. Her dancing in the American Ballet Theater’s Alexandra Fedorova production that I saw at the New York Public Library is pure genius. But any version that claims being “based on the original”, in reality, is never based on the original, but instead it is based on previous interpretations of other interpretations, which were based on the original at some point given. I’m not saying that these versions have no artistic value, not at all. It’s just that my goal is different and very specific. I want to present to you the choreography ‘Swan Lake’ created by two great masters, Petipa and Ivanov. Fortunately, the notations made by Nikolay Sergeev and his colleagues at the Imperial Ballet make this unlikely task possible. And I am grateful that Lourdes López is as inspired by the idea as I am.
Finally, do you plan to return to Miami for the opening night?
“How could I miss it? »
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If you are going to
Miami City Ballet will perform “Swan Lake” from Friday, February 11 through Sunday, February 13 at the Ziff Ballet Opera House at the Adrienne Arsht Center (1300 Biscayne Blvd, Miami, FL 33132). The theater will be fully occupied and the Arsht Center needs masks and a recent negative COVID-19 test sample. It is also acceptable to offer proof of vaccination instead of a negative test. To purchase tickets (starting at $37), visit https://tickets.miamicityballet.org/events.
PHOTO : MCB dancers during a rehearsal of “Swan Lake” with Joan Latham, Alexei Ratmansky, Tatiana Ratmansky and Lourdes López. Photography: Alexander Iziliaev (courtesy Miami City Ballet)