Step-mother of all bal­lets

Rus­sian bal­let mae­stro Alexei Rat­man­sky is bring­ing a re­ju­ve­nated Cin­derella to the stage

The Advertiser - SA Weekend - - LIFE & STYLE -

louise nunn

THE Aus­tralian Bal­let is po­lite but to the point: Alexei Rat­man­sky will be hard to pin down for an in­ter­view by phone or email. In the bal­let world 45-yearold Rat­man­sky is hot property. He is cur­rently work­ing on projects for Paris Opera Bal­let, Amer­i­can Bal­let Theatre and Dres­den Sem­per­oper.

At the same time, his new ver­sion of Cin­derella is about to open in Ade­laide.

Eight per­for­mances at Fes­ti­val Theatre from July 4 will keep the city on its toes.

Cin­derella played to sold-out houses dur­ing its pre­miere Mel­bourne and Syd­ney sea­sons a few months ago.

Aus­tralian Bal­let artis­tic di­rec­tor David McAl­lis­ter says people who missed it then are plan­ning to see it in Ade­laide, its only out­ing this year.

“He’s the uber man in bal­let at the mo­ment,” McAl­lis­ter says of the chore­og­ra­pher.

A few days later, a re­sponse from Rat­man­sky pops into the email.

His an­swers to ques­tions about the pro­duc­tion are short but pep­pered with jokes and asides, in keep­ing with his rep­u­ta­tion as a chore­og­ra­pher with a great sense of hu­mour.

There’s am­ple ev­i­dence of it in Cin­derella, cre­ated with Paris-based set and cos­tume de­signer Jérôme Ka­plan to Prokofiev’s sig­na­ture score.

The mu­sic is still hugely pop­u­lar to­day and con­tains its own tilt at com­edy, par­tic­u­larly in re­gard to the step-sis­ters.

Still, McAl­lis­ter says, Rat­man­sky and Ka­plan’s col­lab­o­ra­tion raised eye­brows.

For­get the pumpkin and mice. Moons and stars es­cort Cin­derella to the ball in this ver­sion of the rags-to-riches fairy­tale, set by Rat­man­sky and Ka­plan in a run­down theatre af­ter World War II.

“The pro­duc­tion is set post-World War II, in­ter­est­ingly around the time Prokofiev wrote it,” McAl­lis­ter says.

“There’s lots of ref­er­ences to fash­ion of the era and also to Sur­re­al­ism, a ma­jor art move­ment of the time.

“The fairy god­mother wears a bowler hat in the style of Magritte, and con­jures the plan­ets to cre­ate Cin­derella’s ball gown.

“There was a lot of in­ter­est af­ter the war in astron­omy and telling the fu­ture by the stars, so it draws on that idea.”

Born in St Peters­burg, Rus­sia, Rat­man­sky is a for­mer dancer who in his thir­ties was el­e­vated from the ranks to lead the Bolshoi Bal­let.

Af­ter five years at the helm in 2009 he left Rus­sia to join Amer­i­can Bal­let Theatre as artist in res­i­dence.

He has won nu­mer­ous awards for his work, in­clud­ing a UK crit­ics award for The Bright Stream, the Benois de la Danse prize for his Anna Karen­ina for Royal Dan­ish Bal­let, and a Golden Mask for his Jeu de Cartes for the Bolshoi.

In ad­di­tion to Cin­derella, his bal­lets with Ka­plan in­clude Het Na­tionale Bal­let’s Don Quixote and Bolshoi’s Lost Il­lu­sions.

He also has an­other Cin­derella, made for Rus­sia’s Mari­in­sky Theatre in 2002, which he was keen to re­visit and which partly in­flu­enced Aus­tralian Bal­let’s pro­duc­tion.

“There are some as­pects of my orig­i­nal pro­duc­tion in this ver­sion,” he says.

More than any­thing, Rat­man­sky is cred­ited with re­viv­ing in­ter­est in story bal­lets, a 19th-century phe­nom­e­non that car­ried through to the 20th but wa­vered un­der ac­cu­sa­tions it had be­come a mu­seum art form. What draws him to them? “They give a chore­og­ra­pher the op­por­tu­nity to make a sub­stan­tial

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