Once upon a time, four balletomanes walked into a Mexican restaurant on a hot summer day in New York City. Their spirits were as high as the humidity, each one of them brought to the Big Apple by the lure of one word: Ratmansky. Even the intermittent screeching of tires and squealing brakes of poorly maintained taxis seemed to rasp this singular word—“Rrrat-man-ssssssssssskyyyy!” they cried, grinding metal protesting in fervent agitation. Spirits of the urban landscape whispered the word from all corners, as it rustled through the leaves of the dishearteningly few trees nearby, gurgled forth from the eruptive jets of water of the Lincoln Center fountain, and clung to the smells of pretzels, falafels, and body odor (not necessarily in that order). Somehow, this mystical force managed to assemble four balletomanes in one time and space, and so began the gathering storm.
One globe-trotter traversed the skies from London; another wayfarer arrived by land from Seattle; the remaining two far wiser to be residents of New York City or nearby along the East Coast such that their summoning could be perceived with more sanity. When they sat down for dinner in a sunlit room, the square table became the arena, the tablecloth the battleground, and the homemade medium-spicy guacamole the temporary nourishment. The weapons had been chosen—The Bow and Arrow of Romanticism, the Neoclassical Sword, the Sickle of Modernity, and the Shield of Neutrality, each following suit with the Ashtonian, the Balanchinian, the Ratmanskian, and Switzerland. Unsurprisingly, ‘twas not long before discussions became heated and surreptitiously more barbed.
One such exchange went as follows:
“How can you not like Bach? Concerto Barocco is the most amazing ballet,” exclaimed the Balanchinian.
“Bach ballets need to die,” said the Ratmanskian, without flinching but paused thoughtfully. “Except for Forsythe’s Artifact Suite.” A motion of agreement from Switzerland quelled the mounting tensions for a moment, but like good tortilla chips, such things never lasted for long.
“To be honest, I don’t like any of the leotard ballets,” the Ashtonian casually remarked.
“The Four Temperaments? Symphony in Three Movements? AGON?!?” the Balanchinian listed them all one by one, each time with more vehement disapproval.
“Unless it’s Rubies, don’t get me started on Stravinsky…” warned the Ashtonian.
“I LOVE Stravinsky!” interjected the Ratmanskian, excited to discuss a composer far removed from the blandness of the Baroque. “Give me dark and visceral any day.”
“Give me La fille mal gardée any day!” countered the Ashtonian, and after a recent viewing of it in the swamplands of Florida, even the Balanchinian paid respects to a delightful piece of storytelling.
“Fille also needs to die,” added the Ratmanskian, unwavering in disposition even as the Ashtonian nearly fell to the floor with heaving chest pains.
The war waged on for what seemed like hours and the quartet of balletomanes stopped only for tacos (curiously, Switzerland rebelled by ordering an enchilada) and flan. Symphonic Variations? Masterpiece. Christopher Wheeldon? Carousel. Swan Lake? Mariinsky. Serenade? Unanimous approval. Mayerling? A must see. David Hallberg? Demigod.
But when the clock struck seven the witching hour of Ratmansky had drawn close and it was time for the pilgrimage across the plaza to the fortified Metropolitan Opera House. And so they did, crossing asphalt, the great stone steps, and brick on a far from perilous journey—no catfights, no gouging of eyes, and no theatrical slaps in fits of rage. Comrades? Perhaps…but more importantly—just friends.