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Originally published Saturday, March 12, 2011 at 7:05 PM

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PNB introduces a big ballet talent to the Northwest: Alexei Ratmansky

A preview of Pacific Northwest Ballet's "Contemporary 4" program, which will introduce Seattle-area audiences to one of the major forces in ballet today: Bolshoi-trained choreographer Alexei Ratmansky.

Seattle Times arts writer

Dance preview

'Contemporary 4'

7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday and March 24-26, 2 p.m. Saturday, and 1 p.m. March 27, Pacific Northwest Ballet, McCaw Hall, 321 Mercer St., Seattle; $27-$165 (206-441-2424 or www.pnb.org).

Pacific Northwest Ballet audiences may currently be unfamiliar with the name of Alexei Ratmansky. That's about to change, in a big way.

Ratmansky, a Russian who trained with the Bolshoi Ballet and later became its artistic director, is currently one of the hottest balletmakers around, frequently mentioned in the same breath as Christopher Wheeldon as the most influential classical choreographers of the new century. He travels to premiere his work at such companies as the Kirov, the Dutch National Ballet, the Royal Danish Ballet, San Francisco Ballet and American Ballet Theatre, where he has been artist in residence since 2009. His "Concerto DSCH," made in 2008 for New York City Ballet, will have its PNB premiere next week, as part of the "Contemporary 4" repertory evening — and his new full-length version of "Don Quixote," based on original choreography by Marius Petipa and Alexander Gorsky, will arrive here next season (see related story).

Peter Boal, artistic director of PNB, said that he wanted to obtain "Concerto DSCH" from the moment he saw it, in one of its earliest performances at New York City Ballet. He saw echoes of Jerome Robbins in the ballet's delicate connections between dancers. "Many choreographers," he said, "are rushing toward the more abstract, the busiest, the faster, the denser. It's as if [Ratmansky] pulls back for these nuances, and allows human emotion to come into his work. I really admired that. I saw a great storyteller."

"Concerto DSCH" is set to Dmitri Shostakovich's Concerto No. 2, written in 1957 as a birthday gift for the composer's teenage son, a pianist. The ballet, whose title is both an abbreviation of the composer's name and a musical motif, features a leading couple, a trio and an ensemble. Ratmansky and his wife, Tatiana, a former dancer with the Ukrainian National Ballet and Royal Winnipeg Ballet who now works with her husband, came to Seattle last summer to rehearse the work with PNB dancers, setting it in just three days due to tight schedules. "I think that breaks some kind of record," said Boal.

Ratmansky, who's currently in Moscow at work on a new version of "Anna Karenina," choreographed "Don Quixote" for the Dutch National Ballet last year. Boal flew to Amsterdam to see it, and loved what he saw. "It's silly in places, it's endearing in places, it's passionate in other places," he said. "[Ratmansky's] storytelling is so beautiful, it's like when an age-old master tells a story. You feel like you're in the hands of Shakespeare or someone."

Though PNB has had a production of "Don Quixote" in the repertory before, some years ago, Boal's pleased to reintroduce the ballet with Ratmansky's version. "I really wanted to introduce Alexei to our audience and dancers, so this fit," he said.

"Concerto DSCH" will share the bill with the world premiere of "Place a Chill," choreographed by Marco Goecke ("Mopey") to music by Camille Saint-Saëns. The evening also includes two contemporary works previously seen at PNB: Mark Morris' "Pacific" and Paul Gibson's "The Piano Dance."

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

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