Book details

The Boy from Kyiv

Alexei Ratmansky's Life in Ballet

Author: Marina Harss

The Boy from Kyiv

The Boy from Kyiv


About This Book

Named a Best Book of the Year by NPR and The New Yorker

The Boy from Kyiv is the life story of Alexei Ratmansky, the most celebrated ballet choreographer...

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Book Details

Named a Best Book of the Year by NPR and The New Yorker

The Boy from Kyiv is the life story of Alexei Ratmansky, the most celebrated ballet choreographer of our time.

“A revelatory book about how [Ratmansky] evolved into the internationally sought-after choreographer of the moment . . . A must-read.”
— Martha Anne Toll, NPR

Alexei Ratmansky is transforming ballet for the twenty-first century. An artist of daring imagination, the choreographer has created breathtakingly original works for the world’s most revered companies. He has fashioned a singular approach to balletic storytelling that bridges the space between narrative and abstraction and heightens ambiguity and surprise on the stage. He has boldly restored great centuries-old ballets to their former glory, combining archival research with his own choreographic genius to retrieve detail and color once lost to the ages. And above all, he is renowned for fusing the Western and Eastern ballet traditions, and for drawing on the visual arts, literature, music, film, and beyond with inspired vim, to forge a style that is vibrant, eclectic, and utterly new: one that promises to leave an indelible mark on this venerable art form.

But before Ratmansky was the artistic director of the Bolshoi Ballet, the resident choreographer at American Ballet Theatre, the artist in residence at New York City Ballet, and generally, as The New Yorker has it, “the most sought-after man in ballet,” he was just a boy from Kyiv, sneaking into the ballet at night, concocting his own juvenile adaptations of novels and stories, and dreaming up new possibilities for bodies in motion.

In The Boy from Kyiv, the first biography of this groundbreaking artist, the celebrated dance writer Marina Harss takes us behind the curtain to reveal Ratmansky’s fascinating life, from his Soviet boyhood through his globe-spanning career. Over a decade in the making, this biography arrives at a pivotal moment in Ratmansky’s journey, one that has seen him painfully and publicly break ties with Russia, the country in which he made his name, in solidarity with his native Ukraine, and take on a new challenge at the storied New York City Ballet. Told with the lyricism, drama, and verve that befit its subject, The Boy from Kyiv is a riveting account of this major artist’s ascent to the peaks of his field, a mesmerizing study of creativity in action, and a triumphant testament to ballet’s enduring vitality.

Imprint Publisher

Farrar, Straus and Giroux



In The News

“[A] spirited, engaging biography . . . Harss analyzes each of Mr. Ratmansky’s ballets, skillfully describing them in such vivid detail that you can almost see them . . . A deeply researched portrait.”
—Moira Hodgson, The Wall Street Journal

“Deft [and] intimate . . . [Marina] Harss’s insightful portrait of a prolific creator highlights how Ratmansky’s art reflects the frictions and the liberations of a changing world.”
The New Yorker

“Marina Harss . . . makes a strong case that Ratmansky has breathed fresh life into ballet . . . An incisive and swiftly flowing biography . . . Engaging and passionate.”
—Robert Steven Mack, The New Criterion

“[Marina] Harss writes accessibly and authoritatively about this most ephemeral of performed art forms.”
Harvard Magazine

“Dance writer Marina Harss engagingly chronicles [Ratmansky’s] career so far.”
—Lyndsey Winship, The Guardian

“[Marina] Harss makes a lively book debut with an appreciative, richly detailed, generously illustrated biography of dancer and choreographer Alexei Ratmansky . . . A delightful gift for ballet fans.”
Kirkus Reviews

“[An] impressively detailed debut . . . It’s a pleasure to follow Ratmansky’s career, which is brought to life by Harss’s deep research. Dance aficionados will delight in this vibrant portrait.”
Publishers Weekly

“An appreciative, carefully researched biography . . . Anyone worried that ‘ballet is dead’ need look no further than the story of this acclaimed and accomplished artist.”
—Carolyn Mulac, Booklist (starred review)

“The first in-depth look at this fast-rising, in-demand ballet choreographer.”
—Susan Yung, The Brooklyn Rail

“A beautifully written, close examination of the many ways in which [Ratmansky’s] work and life are intertwined.”
—Martha Ullman West, Arts Meme

“In my time at American Ballet Theatre, I have worked closely with Alexei Ratmansky on countless ballets, and his artistry and imagination have been a source of great inspiration. Now, reading Marina Harss’s illuminating new biography, I have a deeper understanding of and appreciation for the artist and how his personal story has helped form his artistic identity.”
—Misty Copeland, principal dancer at American Ballet Theatre

“History itself flows through the life and choreography of Alexei Ratmansky: the histories of Ukraine, Russia, and the West, ballet heritage and ballet modernity, and the evolving presentations of women, of partnering, and of community are Ratmansky terrain. Marina Harss’s The Boy from Kyiv—a page-turner from the first—tells Ratmansky’s story with a fluent lightness that’s like his choreography. Ratmansky’s work and the many possibilities of ballet grow richer and deeper in the mind as you read.”
—Alastair Macaulay, chief dance critic at The New York Times, 2007–2018

“In this elegant, authoritative biography of one of the great choreographers of our time, Marina Harss captures Alexei Ratmansky in all his passionate complexity: he appears at once Ukrainian and Russian, Easterner and Westerner, iconoclast and restorer, modernist and populist. Harss shows how a major artist can not only withstand the contradictions of twenty-first-century identity but thrive on them. Most important, she brings the dances to riveting life on the page, evoking history in motion.”
—Alex Ross, author of Wagnerism: Art and Politics in the Shadow of Music

“Marina Harss has written a big, thorough trip through Alexei Ratmansky’s life . . . so far. Ratmansky’s is a rare talent, well represented in Harss’s book, which, like its subject, is rarely still for long, ever pushing onward. Generously detailed and engaging, The Boy from Kyiv is a welcome story arriving at a critical moment for Ukraine, for the world, for ballet and the performing arts in general.”
—Mark Morris, choreographer

“Harss’s hero is ballet’s hero. Alexei Ratmansky has single-handedly transformed the art worldwide, and he is now, at the height of his powers, seeking to rescue Ukrainian culture from the Russia that gave him so much yet took so much away. Harss’s biography is emphatic, gracious, wryly humored, and deeply learned—like the genius himself.”
—Simon Morrison, author of Bolshoi Confidential

“A fascinating portrait of the artist as a work in progress, The Boy from Kyiv acquires real depth by tracing Alexei Ratmansky’s growing understanding of his own cultural identity, now forced to an inflection point by the invasion of his beloved Ukraine. ‘This war has given me a sense of belonging,’ Ratmansky told Marina Harss; this vivid, absorbing book explains why.”
—Amanda Vaill, author of Somewhere: The Life of Jerome Robbins

“Ardent, lively, and deeply researched, The Boy from Kyiv provides important keys to the life and work of the most admired choreographer of our day. A fascinating study in relentless creativity and a glimpse into the future of ballet.”
—Claudia Roth Pierpont, author of American Rhapsody: Writers, Musicians, Movie Stars, and One Great Building

About the Creators

The Boy from Kyiv

The Boy from Kyiv