Choreographer Alexei Ratmansky, the former artistic director of Bolshoi Ballet and now an artist-in-residence at the American Ballet Theater, was preparing a new ballet at the Bolshoi in Moscow when Russian President Vladimir Putin announced it early in the morning. Thursday, that he had launched an invasion into neighboring Ukraine.
Mr. Ratmansky, who grew up in Kyiv and danced there early in his career, immediately decided to leave Moscow and, with Bolshoi’s help, arranged to go home to New York via Warsaw. , along with the rest of his international creations. team.
“It was as if we were on a fast train, rushing towards the finish line,” Ratmansky said of the rehearsal phase, in an interview on Saturday. “The news is terrible, but I am completely torn between creativity, love and despair – all these words. I thought, if military action really starts, I won’t be able to continue, but until then, I’ll try to ignore the news and be professional and just do my thing. ”
The ballet, set on Bach’s “Art of the Fugue,” was due to premiere on March 30 but has been postponed indefinitely. The head of the Bolshoi press office, Katerina Novikova, when asked for comment, pointed to a statement about theater websitesaid it was shelved after “negotiating with the staging team.”
The ballet has yet to be officially cancelled. The statement read: “This project is extremely important to the Bolshoi Theatre, a great deal of work has been done to date and we hope to be able to make this a reality.” Mr. Ratmansky was also quoted, saying that “when the time comes, I hope to return to Moscow to finish production.”
But after witnessing the brutality of the invasion, he said he wasn’t sure when that would happen. Most of his family lives in Ukraine. “I doubt I would go if Putin were still president,” he said.
On Wednesday night, he slept in his room at the Metropol hotel, across from Bolshoi square, alarmed by the ominous reports he had seen in the international media about the massive Russian army along the border. border with Ukraine. However, he said, he did not expect the large-scale attack to follow several hours later. “I think nothing will change,” he said, “there has been conflict with separatists along the border since 2014.” His wife, Tatiana, woke him on Thursday morning, calling him from New York to tell the news. “The first thing I did was call Bolshoi and arrange to leave.”
In addition to “The Art of the Fugue,” Mr. Ratmansky has another, even larger project that seems unlikely to be completed anytime soon: a lavish, historic production of the ballet Petipa year. 1862 “The Pharaoh’s Daughter,” for the Mariinsky Ballet in St.Petersburg.
“Daughter of Pharaoh” there will be a premiere in mid-Maybut Mr. Ratmansky informed Mariinsky that, given the circumstances, he would not be able to return to finish the ballet in April as scheduled.
Mr. Ratmansky is Ukrainian and Russian. His parents, sister, niece and nephew live in Kyiv, as does the family of Ms. Ratmansky, who is Ukrainian.
Mr. Ratmansky is still in regular contact by phone with his family. His parents, initially in their 80s, took shelter in the basement of their building in the downtown area, before driving to a small country house about an hour from the city. Other family members are sheltering in underground garages and basements.
They are all safe now, and Mr. Ratmansky said, “trying to stay in good spirits.”
When asked if the current conflict brings back wartime memories for his mother, who had been through the Siege of Leningrad, and his father, who had to be evacuated from Kyiv before the Nazi invasion and lost a family members because of the Holocaust or not, Ratmansky said, “we haven’t talked about it yet. We were just talking about ‘how are you?’
The consequences of the Russian invasion were felt in Russian cultural circles. Conductor Valery Gergiev, who is close to Putin, has canceled concerts at Carnegie Hall. The Munich Philharmonic, where Gergiev is the main conductor, threatened to terminate his contract if he does not speak out against the invasion, La Scala in Milan too. The Bolshoi Ballet tour to the Royal Opera House in London this summer has been cancelled. Russia was even excluded from the common people Europe Regional Song Contest.
“Both of these projects are very close to my heart,” Mr. Ratmansky said of his ballet. “But for now, the only thing that matters is that Ukraine survives, keeps its independence, and our family survives.”
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