Step-mother of all ballets
Russian ballet maestro Alexei Ratmansky is bringing a rejuvenated Cinderella to the stage
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