Inside Alexei Ratmansky’s Rehearsals
Post by Jeanette Delgado, Principal Dancer
“If it’s not about the port de bras, then it doesn’t make sense.” -Alexei Ratmansky.
As dancers we speak with our bodies. At times we get so consumed with how our legs and feet are working that we lose sight of the significance of our upper body. Alexei Ratmansky has reminded us of the importance of each gesture and has helped me visualize movement in a completely new way. He offers fresh concepts, things I’ve never really thought of before and it has expanded my creativity and hopefully my dancing!
Symphonic Dances is very balletic but there are so many unique qualities to each movement. Ratmansky is so specific about exactly how your body should move and what your intention should be that it looks and feels like a completely different style of dance.
In an interview with Dance Magazine, Ratmansky says that “every movement could be done in a hundred different ways.” Here are some of the challenging and exciting intricacies of movement he has shared with us! Of course, our artform is visual and it’s tough describing movement with words, but I will do my best…
– Improvise with your coordination. For instance, making the transition of our port de bras slower than the legs; soft with our arms while quick with the legs and finishing the movement with the arms still reaching softly. Or moving our head and shoulders last, after our feet, hips, and body move to create suspense.
-Paint lines in the air with your hands to make movement more interesting!
-Before running somewhere, feel your upper body falling out, out, out… Reach forward longer than your legs & the last thing to finally fall forward is the leg that’s behind you. This is where the impulse to run forward comes from.
– Play with the shifting of your weight and when to do it. This is one of my favorite things and also the hardest! An example is in a jump called a pas de chat, where he asked us to begin the jump traveling forward and then midway through travel backwards. Normally the jump would continue moving forward. You also continue reaching forward with your arms as you would normally, another contrast between upper and lower body coordination!
-Think of your legs starting from higher up, from the waist to make your line longer. Also keep your hips croisé more, in other words, never let your body get too flat to the front. This helps to keep a three dimensional quality which is very important on stage.
Keep an eye out for these individual qualities in Symphonic Dances! Hopefully it will be as interesting and exciting to watch as it has been to learn and to dance!