News

With Harlequinade, Alexei Ratmansky Turns His Talents to a Petipa Rarity

American Ballet Theatre principal James Whiteside as Harlequin. Photo by Camila Falquez, Courtesy ABT

It's no secret that American Ballet Theatre's artist in residence, Alexei Ratmansky, is obsessed with the choreography of Marius Petipa. Since 2007, he has been involved in reconstructions of several of Petipa's ballets, starting with Le Corsaire for the Bolshoi and continuing through Paquita (2014), The Sleeping Beauty (2015) and Swan Lake (2016). As Ratmansky said recently, "I believe in Petipa's choreography—I admire the structure, the changes of mood, all these things that are so brilliantly clear in his choreography."

Most recently, with the dancers of ABT, he has taken on Harlequinade (originally Les Millions d'Arlequin), a comic ballet created by Petipa in his waning years at the Russian Imperial Ballet. (He was 82 by the time of the premiere in 1900.)


The story is lighthearted: A penniless young man (Harlequin) wants to marry a strong-willed young woman (Columbine), the daughter of the grouchy Cassandre. Cassandre has promised to marry her off to a rich and fatuous older gentleman (Léandre). (There is a clear link to the plot of Don Quixote.) The lovers prevail, aided by a faithful servant (Pierrette) and a Good Fairy.

Petipa drew from the Italian theatrical tradition known as commedia dell'arte, in which stock characters get caught up in messy, even violent, but always funny situations. Each character has his or her way of moving and behaving: Harlequin is always on the move, skittering across the stage with a light-footed run; Columbine is full of pluck.

The ballet appealed to Ratmansky for several reasons. First of all, there was the comic element. "It's full of fun," he recently said at a presentation of the ballet, "and I think that humor gives you the freedom to be really free onstage."

Then there is the music, by Riccardo Drigo, which is melodic and playful, with a lilt that begs to be danced to. (Drigo was a conductor and composer at the Imperial Ballet.) "It's the best possible ballet music, apart from Tchaikovsky or Stravinsky," says Ratmansky.

The work's rarity on ballet stages was also an attraction. There are only two major extant versions of Harlequinade: the one Balanchine made for New York City Ballet in 1965, and a one-act led by the Soviet choreographer Pyotr Gusev, based largely on Fyodor Lopukhov's 1933 version. (There is also a frequently performed "Harlequinade pas de deux," but it has no connection to the full ballet.)

Neither the Balanchine nor the Gusev, however, is a "reconstruction" of the original Petipa ballet, which is what this staging aims to be. As with his Sleeping Beauty and his upcoming Bayadère for Staatsballett Berlin (coming this November), Ratmansky has gone back to notations written down in the days when the ballet was being performed at the Imperial Ballet.

Like many of these notations, the ones created for Harlequinade are not easy to decipher, and are incomplete. Where there are gaps, Ratmansky has stepped in, choreographing in a style inspired by Petipa. Rehearsals at ABT have been painstaking but also highly creative, with the dancers occasionally providing ideas for how best to depict their characters, particularly in mime scenes, of which there are many. The costumes and sets, by Robert Perdziola, are inspired by the originals, drawings of which are kept in the St. Petersburg State Museum of Theatre and Music. As with any reconstruction, the archival materials are only a staring point. But in Ratmansky's view, there is a lot to be learned from living inside the choreography of a past master.

Show Comments ()
News
Gina Gibney's organization has grown invaluable to the NYC dance scene. Photo by Scott Shaw, Courtesy Gibney

New York City–based dancers know Gibney. It's a performance venue, a dance company, a rehearsal space, an internship possibility—a Rubik's Cube of resources bundled into two sites at 280 and 890 Broadway. And in March of this year, Gibney (having officially dropped "Dance" from its name) announced a major expansion of its space and programming; it now operates a total of 52,000 square feet, 23 studios and five performance spaces across the two locations.

Six of those studios and one performance space are brand-new at the 280 Broadway location, along with several programs. EMERGE will commission new works by emerging choreographic voices for the resident Gibney Dance Company each year; Making Space+ is an extension of Gibney's Making Space commissioning and presenting program, focused on early-career artists. For the next three years, the Joyce Theater Foundation's artist residency programs will be run out of one of the new Gibney studios, helping to fill the gap left by the closing of the Joyce's DANY Studios in 2016.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
Stagestep's Encore hardwood flooring for full-service broadcast production facility, dance center and venue, Starwest, in Burbank, CA.

What is the right flooring system for us?

So many choices, companies, claims, endorsements, and recommendations to consider. The more you look, the more confusing it gets. Here is what you need to do. Here is what you need to know to get the flooring system suited to your needs.

Keep reading... Show less
Get the print edition!
Dancer Voices
Yuka Oba, Ednis Ariel Gomez Mallol and Connie Flachs in Swing by Olivier Wevers. Photo by Ryan Jackson, courtesy Flachs

"I'm sorry, but I just can't possibly give you the amount of money you're asking for."

My heart sinks at my director's final response to my salary proposal. She insists it's not me or my work, there is just no money in the budget. My disappointment grows when handed the calendar for Grand Rapids Ballet's next season with five fewer weeks of work.

Keep reading... Show less
Dancers Trending
"Off Kilter" has real dancers playing dancers. Still courtesy CBC Arts

"It just...always looks better in my head."

While that might not be something any of us would want to hear from a choreographer, it's a brilliant introduction to "Off Kilter" and the odd, insecure character at its center, Milton Frank. The ballet mockumentary (think "The Office" or "Parks and Recreation," but with pointe shoes) follows Frank (dancer-turned-filmmaker Alejandro Alvarez Cadilla) as he comes back to the studio to try his hand at choreographing for the first time since a plagiarism scandal derailed his fledgling career back in the '90s.

We've been pretty excited about the series for a while, and now the wait is finally over. The first episode of the show, "The Denial," went live earlier today, and it's every bit as awkward, hilarious and relatable as we hoped.

Keep reading... Show less
Health & Body
Jay Sullivan Photography, courtesy Julie Granger

Dancers crossing over into the fitness realm may be increasingly popular, but it was never part of French-born Julie Granger's plan. Though Granger grew up a serious ballet student, taking yoga classes on the side eventually led to a whole new career. Creating her own rules along the way, Granger shares how combining the skills she learned in ballet with certifications in yoga, barre and personal training allowed her to become her own boss (and a rising fitness influencer).

Keep reading... Show less
Popular

Travis Wall draws inspiration from dancers Tate McCrae, Timmy Blankenship and more.

One often-overlooked relationship that exists in dance is the relationship between choreographer and muse. Recently two-time Emmy Award Winner Travis Wall opened up about his experience working with dancers he considers to be his muses.

"My muses in choreography have evolved over the years," says Wall. "When I'm creating on Shaping Sound, our company members, my friends, are my muses. But at this current stage of my career, I'm definitely inspired by new, fresh talent."

Wall adds, "I'm so inspired by this new generation of dancers. Their teachers have done such incredible jobs, and I've seen these kids grown up. For many of them, I've had a hand in their exposure to choreography."

Keep reading... Show less
News
Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Theater. Photo by Cheryl Mann, Courtesy Carol Fox and Associates

José Greco popularized Spanish dance in 1950s and '60s America through his work onstage and on screen. Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Theater's American Spanish Dance & Music Festival is honoring the icon in recognition of what would have been his 100th birthday. As part of the tribute, Greco's three dancing children are reuniting to perform together for the first time since their father's death in 2000. Also on the program is the premiere of contemporary flamenco choreographer Carlos Rodriguez's Mar de Fuego (Sea of Fire). June 15–17, North Shore Center for the Performing Arts. ensembleespanol.org.

Get the print edition!
Health & Body
Give your partner space to process their own emotions about the injury. Photo via Thinkstock

Dance Theatre of Harlem dancers Chris­topher McDaniel and Crystal Serrano were working on Nacho Duato's Coming Together in rehearsal when McDaniel's foot hit a slippery spot on the marley. As they attempted a swinging lift, both dancers went tumbling, injuring Serrano as they fell. She ended up being out for a week with a badly bruised knee.

"I immediately felt, This is my fault," says McDaniel. "I broke my friend."

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Training
University of Texas at Austin students in When. Photo by Lawrence Peart, courtesy ACDA

What's on the minds of college students today?

I recently had the honor of adjudicating at the American College Dance Association's National College Dance Festival, along with choreographer Dana Tai Soon Burgess and former National Endowment for the Arts dance specialist Douglas C. Sonntag. We chose three winners—one for Outstanding Choreography and two for Outstanding Performance—from 30 pieces representing schools throughout the country. It was a great opportunity to see what college dance students are up to—from the issues they care about to the kinds movement they're interested in exploring.

Here were the biggest trends and takeaways:

Keep reading... Show less
News
Herman Cornejo and Tiler Peck at Vail Dance Festival. Photo by Erin Baiano, Courtesy Vail

It's summer festival season! If you're feeling overwhelmed by the dizzying array of offerings, never fear: We've combed through the usual suspects to highlight the shows we most want to catch.

Keep reading... Show less
Editors’ List: The Goods
Courtesy of barre + bag

Subscription box services have quickly gained a dedicated following among the fashion and fitness set. And while we'd never say no to a box with new jewelry or workout wear to try, we've been waiting for the subscription model to make its way to the dance world.

Enter barre + bag, a new service that sends a curated set of items to your door each season. Created by Faye Morrow Bell and her daughter Tyler, a student in the pre-professional ballet program at University of North Carolina School of the Arts, this just-launched service offers dance, lifestyle and wellness finds in four themed bags each year: Spring Performance, Summer Study, Back-to-Studio and Nutcracker. Since all the products are specifically made for dancers, everything barre + bag sends you is something you'll actually use, (Plus, it all comes in a bag instead of a box—because what dancer can ever have enough bags?).

barre + bag's Summer Collection

Keep reading... Show less
Get the print edition!
News
Henry Leutwyler

Today, American Ballet Theatre announced a new initiative to foster the development of choreography by company members and freelance dancemakers. Aptly titled ABT Incubator, the program, directed by principal David Hallberg, will give selected choreographers the opportunity to spend two weeks workshopping new dances.

"It has always been my vision to establish a process-oriented hub to explore the directions ballet can forge now and in the future," said Hallberg in a press release from the company. Interested? Here's how you can apply to participate.

Keep reading... Show less
Breaking Stereotypes
Chase Johnsey quietly made modern ballet history when he performed as part of the women's ensemble in English National Ballet's The Sleeping Beauty. Photo by Elliot Franks, Courtesy In the Lights PR

Back in January, Chase Johnsey grabbed headlines when he resigned from Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, where his performances had garnered critical acclaim for over a decade, alleging a culture of harassment and discrimination. (An independent investigation launched by the company did not substantiate any legal claims.) Johnsey, who identifies as genderqueer, later told us that he feared his dance career was at an end—where else, as a ballet dancer, would he be allowed to perform traditionally female roles?

But the story didn't end there. After a surprise offer from Tamara Rojo, artistic director of English National Ballet, Johnsey has found a temporary artistic home with the company, joining as a guest at the rank of first artist for its run of The Sleeping Beauty, which continues this week. After weeks of working and rehearsing with the company, last week Johnsey quietly marked a new milestone: He performed with ENB's corps de ballet as one of the ladies in the prince's court.

Keep reading... Show less

Sponsored

Viral Videos

Sponsored

mailbox

Get Dance Magazine in your inbox

Sponsored

Giveaways