Susan Jones, or, the Art of the Ballet Mistress

Susan Jones cooaching "Paquita."
Susan Jones cooaching “Paquita.”

Here’s my interview with Susan Jones, a ballet mistress at American Ballet Theatre in charge of the corps de ballet. Jones joined ABT in 1970 and stayed for nine years. In that time, she danced every corps role in the rep, plus Lizzie in Fall River Legend, Cowgirl in Rodeo, and a few other choice parts that suited her dramatic side. She quickly showed a skill for remembering steps, which became handy when working with Twyla Tharp on Push Comes to Shove. Baryshnikov made her a ballet mistress, and she never left. This fall, she is re-staging Tharp’s Bach Partita, which hasn’t been done for almost thirty years.

An Ongoing Conversation with Alexei Ratmansky

Ratmansky demonstrating a step to Luciana Paris, of ABT. Photo by Andrea Mohin.
Ratmansky demonstrating a step to Luciana Paris, of ABT. Photo by Andrea Mohin.

This q&a, for DanceTabs, is a composite of various interviews I’ve done with the choreographer Alexei Ratmansky since 2009, when I wrote my first profile of him for The Nation, “Ratmansky Takes Manhattan” (2009). Through his straightforward, thoughtful answers, I think one gets a tiny glimpse into the way he thinks about dance, music, and the creative process. Here’s a short excerpt:

“I sense a big support from history. You can’t really go to the university and learn choreography. I guess you can be an apprentice, but I never had that luck. So for me it’s the only way to learn the craft. Staging another choreographers’ ballets is a great, great school. I discovered that when we did Le Corsaire at the Bolshoi. We had about sixty minutes of original Petipa steps. My co-choreographer Yuri Burlak and I really wanted Petipa’s part of it to lead us. So everything that we knew had come later we got rid of…I’ve also re-staged ballets by Massine with new choreography, like Scuola di Ballo [for the Australian Ballet], as well as Lopukhov’s Bolt and The Bright Stream, and Fokine’s Golden Cockerel [for the Royal Danish Ballet].”

Here’s my recent piece on the Shostakovich Trilogy, “Running Like Shadows”.

 

Interview with Valerie Barnes (for DanceTabs)

I recently sat down with Valerie Taylor Barnes, wife of the late critic Clive Barnes and founder of the Clive Barnes Foundation, rewarding what she calls “that mysterious thing called artistry.” She is incredibly gracious, funny, and full of stories. You can read the interview here.

Here she is, talking about Frederick Ashton:

“I loved all his work. He was a wonderful, wonderful man, absolutely lovely. He was very, very sensitive. I never knew him to lose his temper, with all the trials and tribulations; he was always just terrific, with a great sense of humor. I learned, well, I suppose everything I knew about the theatre from him. He was very open and generous with everything. His way of choreographing was wonderful because he would ask us to join in. He would say: ‘Just do a step to that,’ and even if he didn’t use it, you felt like you were partaking in what was going on. It kept everybody interested. I think everybody loved him. He was an amazing man.”