Famed choreographer Ratmansky joins NYC Ballet in August

NEW YORK (AP) — Acclaimed choreographer Alexei Ratmansky won’t be going far this summer when he leaves American Ballet Theatre — he’ll simply be crossing Lincoln Center’s plaza over to New York City Ballet.

Ratmansky, one of the leading classical choreographers in the world, will join NYCB in August as artist in residence with a five-year contract, the company announced on Thursday. In June, he steps down from the same position at ABT after 13 years. He’s created several works for NYCB over the years, including “Russian Seasons,” “Concerto DSCH,” “Namouna,” and “Pictures at an Exhibition.”

In an interview, NYCB’s artistic director, Jonathan Stafford, said the company was delighted to be able to give Ratmansky, a former artistic director at the Bolshoi ballet, a more robust role.

Stafford, who worked with Ratmansky as a dancer on “Russian Seasons” and “Concerto DSCH,” said Ratmansky brought what he called a unique approach to NYCB, specifically a sense of musicality, a broad dance vocabulary and a devotion to detail.

“He brought layers of my own artistry and dancing that I didn’t know I had in me — it was kind of mind-blowing in a way as an artist to work with a choreographer like that, who really not only brought the best out in you but brought new things out in you,” Stafford said. “He’s very quick to challenge those he’s working with to be better. At New York City Ballet we’re always trying to be better and we just think he’s going to fit so beautifully into that.”

In a statement, Ratmansky said the new opportunity at NYCB, which performs across the plaza from ABT at the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, “opened a new creative door for me.”

The company said Ratmansky will create at least one new work each year, with the first scheduled to premiere during the 2024 winter season as part of the company’s 75th anniversary celebrations.

The 54-year old choreographer has created works for companies around the globe and is known for his prolific talent and deeply varied repertoire.

Born in St. Petersburg, Russia, to a Russian mother and a Ukrainian father, Ratmansky grew up in Kyiv, where his parents still live. He was choreographing in Moscow when the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, and left the country immediately. In September, he presented “Wartime Elegy” at Pacific Northwest Ballet in Seattle, dedicated to the people of Ukraine. On opening night, he unfurled and held aloft a Ukrainian flag during curtain calls.

Stafford noted that Ratmansky was “very much a ballet historian, and he loves the history of New York City Ballet,” especially the legacy of famed choreographers George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins.

Wendy Whelan, the former NYCB principal dancer and current associate artistic director, called working with Ratmansky on his ballets one of the artistic highlights of her dancing career.

“To have him now working with NYCB’s current generation of dancers on a regular basis is a dream come true, and I can’t wait to see what he creates with our artists,” Whelan said in a statement.

Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.