Choreographer Alexei Ratmansky Begins His Residency at the New York City Ballet. | Playbill

Classic Arts Features Choreographer Alexei Ratmansky Begins His Residency at the New York City Ballet.

His new ballet will pay homage to choreographers Jerome Robbins and George Balanchine.

Alexei Ratmansky

On February 15, Alexei Ratmansky premieres his first work as New York City Ballet’s newly appointed Artist in Residence called Innovators & Icons, which will run until February 28. The dive into choreographers past and present will pay homage to Jerome Robbins and George Balanchine, as well as a new piece by Ratmansky.  

The choreographer’s ties to the Company—and to the ballets of George Balanchine—are long established. Born in Ukraine, Ratmansky trained under the famed Peter Pestov in Moscow at the Bolshoi Choreographic School, before joining Ukrainian National Ballet in his native country, and then going west, first to Royal Winnipeg Ballet in Canada, and then to the Royal Danish Ballet. 

Ratmansky directed the Bolshoi Ballet from 2004 to 2008, and was Artist in Residence at American Ballet Theatre from 2009 to 2023. After choreographing for NYCB’s New York Choreographic Institute in 2002, Ratmansky premiered his first ballet for the Company, Russian Seasons, in 2006, and he has since made five additional acclaimed works for the Company. 

Last September, he spoke with NYCB's Associate Artistic Director Wendy Whelan, who originated leading roles in many of his NYCB works, in a wide-ranging conversation for “City Ballet: The Podcast.” Below are excerpts from their exchange. To listen to the full conversation and other episodes of “City Ballet: The Podcast,” visit

You’re here. You’re at New York City Ballet. We’re so happy to have you.
I’m so happy to be here.

This season is your first as Artist in Residence. With the Balanchine focus, I wanted to see what you were excited about.
Every Balanchine ballet is a world of its own. Every time is a new experience. Because I’ve read many old choreography notations, I love recognizing the old steps from the Imperial repertory. You can see Balanchine as a chef. He’s using ingredients and then cooking something completely new.

You do that, too. I remember when you first came and made Russian Seasons, people were saying, Ah, that’s Nijinska. That moment or little bits here and there, just kind of resurrecting old ideas and making them new.
A lot of that is just part of me—my experience as a dancer, as a spectator, as a student of ballet history. It’s just part of the language that I use, I guess.

You are from Ukraine. Balanchine was Georgian. But you both trained in Russia. Did people talk about Balanchine?
I knew the name from books, but that was it. I think the first time I saw Balanchine live was the Monte Carlo Ballet performing on tour in Moscow, in the late ’80s. I saw Prodigal Son, which completely blew my mind. And also [Stravinsky] Violin Concerto, which was absolutely different, but also so great.

Prior to this, my professor at the Bolshoi, after graduation, showed me an Apollo VHS tape of Peter Martins and Suzanne Farrell. I remember he said, “Look how pure it is.” The purity of it he loved, and I loved as well. Then I started dancing in Kiev with my director, the great Ukrainian dancer Valery Kotun. After a year he left the theater, but he invited me to guest dance with a group that he organized, in Apollo. We were on tour in Odesa in this beautiful theater. I danced Apollo for two weeks with the great Ukrainian ballerina Tatyana Tayakina. It was amazing.

When I joined the Royal Winnipeg Ballet in Canada, I remember Vicki [Victoria] Simon rehearsing me in the solo from Square Dance, which I adored. She said, “Well, it’s good. Now try to dance it simpler.” That was one of the most important corrections that I ever got. I understood that you can just do the steps and let the music go through the body, and that’s enough. And I think I started to understand that it’s not only a style of dancing, but it’s an ethic.

You seem, like Balanchine, very committed to classical ballet, with a twist here and there—pushing the boundaries and the physicality, and recycling those historical moments to make them new.
In the moment I realized that I wanted to have ballet as my life’s work, I understood that I needed to get information, to learn things. In the training that I had, we were taught to not take the art lightly, to serve it and to serve the tradition—which was great, but there is so much more. Ballet has been here for 300 years and we are given this gift. We need to carry it with us, enrich it, and then give it to the next ones.

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