When Alexei Ratmansky’s Bright Stream was presented during the Bolshoi Ballet’s 2005 engagement at the Met, it was New York’s first good look at his work. A full-length ballet set on a Soviet collective farm (“tractor ballet,” this genre was called), Bright Stream possessed a first act of charming manners and a toylike scale, which was ingratiating. The ballet lost its way in Act Two, devolving into a barnyard farce, a cross-dressed switcheroo so lumbering and unfunny it trampled the charm. And it wasn’t just that. In this act as well, one saw that Ratmansky had trouble focusing his more classical pas, having a penchant for dualities that split the stage, frustrating the eye—for instance, two duets danced simultaneously. And yet, Bright Stream received raves, as if it had answered something quite a few critics were hungry for. What that was, though, I couldn’t say at the time.


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