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By Wendy Perron
If I were still choreographing, I’d be jealous of Alexei Ratmansky. He gets to work with some of the best dancers, he can do both narrative and plotless ballets, he makes dances all over the world—and he has great turnout! But he’s such a nice guy, so modest about his own accomplishments, that it would be hard to get green with envy. And besides, I am an editor now (in fact this issue marks my 10th anniversary with Dance Magazine—and our sixth Choreography Issue), so I can take full pleasure in watching his ballets and speaking to him. To find out what he’s like to work with, I asked Wendy Whelan, who has created three roles in his pieces for New York City Ballet. “Alexei can see into a dancer,” she said. “He finds a particular ‘truth/beauty’ in that person, and he coaxes it out of them in his choreography. It’s a total thrill to just be in the studio with someone working with that depth of intention.”
Many choreographers (including Ratmansky with a new Nutcracker for American Ballet Theatre in the works) are knee-deep in remaking the classics these days. In “There Was This Swan,” Joseph Carman talks to four—who are also artistic directors of their companies—about their choices in this endeavor. Full-length story ballets attract audiences, but companies don’t always want to return to their musty old productions. Some story ballets are sacred to some choreographers. But in other cases, a choreographer can have great zeal—and concrete ideas—for renovating the classics we grew up with.
Going in the opposite direction, “The Traps of Pop Music” looks at the role of popular music in making new work. It’s true that sometimes very familiar music or powerful rock ’n’ roll can obliterate the choreography. In our interviews with six choreographers, from Trey McIntyre with the Beatles to Margo Sappington with the Indigo Girls, most agree that it’s the lyrics that can trip you up.
Are you teaching choreography and looking for inspiration? When student choreographers pool their resources with composers, designers, directors, and visual artists, they can find new creative paths—or, some might argue, wind up getting lost. Read our “Teach-Learn Connection” to find out what choreographer/educators like Annie-B Parson and Stephan Koplowitz say about the special case of teaching choreography as a collaborative process.
Photo by Matthew Karas.