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American Ballet Theater shows new production by Russian choreographer

American Ballet Theater has shown a new production by the Russian choreographer Alexei Ratmansky, ‘Whipped Cream’

WASHINGTON, February 4. /TASS/. American Ballet Theater, now on a performing tour in Washington, has shown a new production by the Russian choreographer Alexei Ratmansky, ‘Whipped Cream’.

The world premiere of the two-act ballet took place in Costa Mesa, California, last spring, but this is the first time the ABT performs it in Washington.

Music of the ballet was composed at the beginning of the 20th century by Richard Strauss while the choreography of the initial production was conceived by Heinrich Kroller. The first stage version appeared in Vienna in 1924 after which ‘Whipped Cream’ almost fell into oblivion.

Alexei Ratmansky did his first experiments with this ballet back in the 1990’s. His current version reaches far beyond a mere revival of Kroller’s work, as he has fully reworked it.

Choreography is not the only factor making today’s ‘Whipped Cream’ different from the 1924 production. The scenery and the costumes by Mark Ryden, a broadly known American artist who is credited for creating the ‘pop surrealism’ trend in arts, also matter much.

This is the first time that Ryden has explored theater in this manner and judging from the spectators’ reaction, the carnival of colors of the costumes and phantasmagoric on the stage seemed to outshine the dance.

For Ryden, this debut was obviously very successful. He told TASS that the entire project had taken about a year and a half from beginning to end.

"This was a tremendous amount of work to do in that amount of time," he said. "It kept me very busy. A project of this size is usually given more time, but we had a pretty aggressive schedule with an opening premier set on the calendar."

"Since this was my first costume and set project, a costume designer, Holly Hynes, and set designer, Camellia Koo, were brought in to work with me," Ryden said. "I certainly could never have done this project without their expertise and experience."

When the reporter asked him what had attracted him to the project, he said he thought it would be interesting to do something he had never done before, "[…] and indeed it was. It was amazing to have the opportunity to work with Alexei Ratmansky and American Ballet Theatre."

One of the key aspects of his work was permanent contacting with Ratmansky. "We had a constant flurry of emails back and forth as everything would go through production," Ryden said.

"I would begin with preliminary sketches and then meet with the ABT production team and Alexei Ratmansky," he said. "We would all discuss everything and they would decide which things I should take further and develop more. This production was definitely Alexei’s vision; he called the shots. Eventually I would paint a color rendering of each particular costume, set piece or backdrop.

Ryden also pointed out the absence of any conflict between the choreographer and himself during the production process.

"I felt completely honored and privileged to work with a genius like Alexei," he said. "Throughout the entire project I was constantly impressed by his brilliance. I honestly don’t ever remember disagreeing with him ever. The entire production team got along really well."

The reporter also asked Ryden to explain for why the decorations contained some words written in Cyrillic letters and Orthodox crosses. The artist made it clear, however, he would rather not answer that.

"I think one of the most important qualities in a work of art is a sense of mystery," he said. "I feel something very important is lost if I explain everything away. I like to leave things for the viewer to interpret."

"What I try to do is inspire peoples’ curiosity, imagination and sense of mystery and wonder," Ryden said.