Acclaimed choreographer Alexei Ratmansky will join the New York City Ballet as a residency artist in August, the company announced Thursday a blow to the organization and a new chapter for one of ballet’s most in-demand and respected performers.
Ratmansky, who has spent the last 13 years at the American Ballet Theatre, said he was inspired by the legacy of City Ballet, built by emerging choreographers George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins.
“I wanted a change,” he said in an interview. “New York City Ballet really opens a new door for me.”
Ratmansky, 54, will create at least one work per year under a five-year contract, with the first scheduled to premiere next winter. He joins the City Ballet, which was founded in 1948, while working to recover from the turmoil of the pandemic and preparing to celebrate its 75th anniversary.
City Ballet’s artistic director, Jonathan Stafford, praised Ratmansky as a powerful creative force.
“She really wants every dancer to bring her full self and her best self to every role, every performance,” she said in an interview. “And that’s something we’re always striving for here.”
Ratmansky has a long history with the City Ballet: starting in 2006, he created six ballets for the company; these include “Concerto DSCH”, “Pictures from an Exhibition” and finally “Voices” in 2020.
Both Stafford and City Ballet’s associate artistic director, Wendy Whelan, are former members of the company that danced at Ratmansky’s premieres. They said they were deeply impressed by her work and inspired many City Ballet dancers.
“Our dancers are hungry for it,” Whelan said. “There’s something about our aesthetics, our education and our musicality that I think really fits with.”
Ratmansky, who grew up in Kiev and trained in Moscow, has been an outspoken supporter of Ukraine since the Russian invasion of Ukraine last year. When the occupation began, she was working with the Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow, where she was once artistic director. He left immediately and said that as long as President Vladimir V. Putin remains president, he is unlikely to return.
At the Ballet Theatre, which he joined in 2009, Ratmansky choreographed numerous ballets, including a reimagined version of “The Nutcracker” and a reenactment of “Sleeping Beauty.” His most recent work for the company was his feature ballet “Of Love and Rage,” which premiered in New York in June. Writing in The Times, Gia Kourlas described it as “pretentious and bold with sweet, full dance,” adding that Ballet Theater dancers “transform with a renewed sense of purpose and promise” in performing it.
The Ballet Theater has undergone a number of changes recently, including the departure of the company’s longtime artistic director, Kevin McKenzie. Susan Jaffe, a former Ballet Theater dancer, took the reins last month.
“It’s still a family to me,” Ratmansky praised the Ballet Theatre. He said that he decided not to renew his contract at the Ballet Theater, which will expire in June, partly because of concerns that he had been with the company for too long.
“I felt like the world was changing,” he said, “and I am changing.”
“There is a danger that you know the dancers too well and they know what to expect from you. There is a danger that you will start repeating yourself.”
Ratmansky said he is not yet sure whether his work with the City Ballet will continue beyond the initial contract.
“It will depend on the atmosphere, the results, the galas, the dancers’ reaction, the audience’s reaction,” he said. “All this combined with a general feeling that it’s working. We’ll just have to wait and see. There’s hope it will work.”