Arts

Alexei Ratmansky, Renowned Choreographer, to Join City Ballet

Alexei Ratmansky, the renowned choreographer, will join New York City Ballet in August as artist in residence, the company announced on Thursday, a coup for the organization and a new chapter for one of ballet’s most in-demand and respected artists.

Ratmansky, who has spent the past 13 years at American Ballet Theater, said he was inspired by the legacy of City Ballet, which was built by the towering choreographers George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins.

“I wanted a change,” he said in an interview. “New York City Ballet really opens a new door for me.”

Ratmansky, 54, will create at least one work a year under a five-year contract, with the first scheduled to premiere next winter. He joins City Ballet, founded in 1948, at a time when it is working to recover from the turmoil of the pandemic and preparing to celebrate its 75th anniversary.

Jonathan Stafford, City Ballet’s artistic director, praised Ratmansky as a powerful creative force.

“He really wants each dancer to bring their full self and their best self to each role, to each performance,” he said in an interview. “And that’s something we strive for all the time here.”

Ratmansky has a long history with City Ballet: beginning in 2006, he has created six ballets for the company, including “Concerto DSCH,” “Pictures at an Exhibition,” and most recently, “Voices,” in 2020.

Both Stafford and Wendy Whelan, City Ballet’s associate artistic director, are former members of the company who danced in premieres by Ratmansky. They said that they had been deeply influenced by his work and that he had inspired many City Ballet dancers.

“Our dancers are hungry for him,” Whelan said. “There’s something about our aesthetic, our training, our musicality that I think he really fits with.”

Since the Russia invasion of Ukraine last year, Ratmansky, who grew up in Kyiv and trained in Moscow, has been an outspoken supporter of Ukraine. When the invasion began, he was in Moscow working at the Bolshoi Ballet, where he had once been the artistic director. He left immediately and said he was unlikely to return as long as President Vladimir V. Putin remained president.

At Ballet Theater, which he joined in 2009, Ratmansky choreographed numerous ballets, including a reimagined version of “The Nutcracker” and a reconstruction of “The Sleeping Beauty.” His latest for the company was the full-length ballet “Of Love and Rage,” which had its New York premiere in June. Writing in The Times, Gia Kourlas called it “ambitious and bold with luscious, full-bodied dancing,” adding that, performing it, the Ballet Theater dancers “were transformed with a renewed sense of purpose and promise.”

Ballet Theater has undergone a series of changes recently, including the departure of Kevin McKenzie, the company’s longtime artistic director. Susan Jaffe, a former Ballet Theater dancer, took the reins last month.

Ratmansky praised Ballet Theater, saying, “it’s still a family for me.” He said he decided not to renew his contract at Ballet Theater, which ends in June, in part because of concerns that he had been at the company too long.

“It just felt like the world is changing,” he said, “and I’m changing.”

He added: “There is a danger that you know the dancers too well, and they know what to expect from you. There is a danger that you start repeating yourself.”

Ratmansky said he was not sure yet whether his work at City Ballet would continue beyond the initial contract.

“It will depend on the atmosphere, the results, the premieres, the response of the dancers, the response of the audience,” he said. “All of that combines to a general feeling of whether it works or not. We’re going to just wait and see. There is a hope that it will work.”

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