Born to be Wild: The Leading Men of American Ballet Theater"
For Four Young Dancers, the Dream Came True
Mr. Malakhov, 35, re-enacts a train ride he took as a 10-year-old when his
mother sent him from their home in the Ukraine to Moscow to study at the
famed Bolshoi Ballet Academy.
By Fletcher Roberts, Dance Editor
Arts and Leisure, The New York Times
New York, New York, February 2, 2003
ANGEL CORELLA came from Madrid, Vladimir Malakhov from Moscow,
José Manuel Carreño from Havana and Ethan Stiefel from Madison, Wis.
Now they are four of the premier ballet dancers in New York, and the paths
they took to get there are the subject of "Born to Be Wild: The Leading Men
of American Ballet Theater," the latest installment of the "Great
Dance in America" series, which will be broadcast tomorrow on PBS.
To Judy Kinberg, the show's producer, the dancers' stories are
"They come from different places, each one, but they all came to New York to
realize their highest potential as dancers," Ms. Kinberg, 54, said. "That's
what we all think of as the American dream, isn't it?"
These stories form the bulk of the hourlong show, in part a kind of
travelogue with grand jetés. Mr. Malakhov, 35, re-enacts a train ride he
took as a 10-year-old when his mother sent him from their home in the
Ukraine to Moscow to study at the famed Bolshoi Ballet Academy. There he is
reunited with his mentor, the former ballerina Sofia Golovkina. "I wanted to
be a dancer," he says. "That is why I gave up everything."
Similarly, Mr. Stiefel, 29, tools around Madison "Easy Rider"-style - Harley
Davidson and sunglasses - visiting his first teacher, Jo Jean Retrum, at the
Monona Academy of Dance. Young students greet him like the local boy who's
made good that he is. "They were pretty excited because once I came into
class, I guess I represented about 50 percent of the male dance population
in Wisconsin," he tells them.
The stories are framed around the dancers rehearsing a work created for them
by Mark Morris. The show concludes with a performance of the seven-minute
piece, set to the Fourth Movement of Schumann's Piano Quintet, Op. 44. The
dance, Ms. Kinberg explained, serves as the show's spine.
"A documentary is very much like a fiction film in that that has to be a
story," she said. "And to do that we tried to develop some sort of
organizing principle that would give the story some forward motion,
something more than just telling the dancers' four stories."
Ms. Kinberg got the idea three years ago while working on a program based on
the company's production of the 19th-century ballet classic "Le Corsaire."
(She won an Emmy for the program, her fourth for the "Dance in America"
series since its inception in 1975.) It was a rare occasion in which three
of the four dancers were working together, and "the idea kind of, I don't
know, it just hatched," she said.
She said it was not her intention to debunk stereotypes about male dancers.
(The "Born to Be Wild" in the title was meant to convey something of the
"fun and daring" of the dancers, she said, though snatches of the
Steppenwolf song are heard at the beginning of the show.) Her aim was to
show these ballet stars as she sees them: "These dancers are what I love
about dancers: they have a great sense of humor, they're not pretentious,
they're very disciplined. I guess it all boils down to that."
Kevin McKenzie, the artistic director of Ballet Theater, agrees. "To the
people for whom the word `ballet' is a foreign term, this program brings it
all down to earth," he said. "The pure athleticism and determination these
four dancers possess is something that so many people will be able to relate
When asked to whom she thought the show would appeal, Ms. Kinberg recalled
something Mr. Morris once told her: "Ballet is not for everybody, but it's
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