Rainer Krenstetter, principal dancer of the Miami City Ballet talks about his experiences in the US
Back when Rainer Krenstetter was a member of the ballet company of Staatsballett Berlin, I often had the opportunity to watch him perform. I was completely fascinated by his brilliant technique and elegance, and I will never forget Béjart’s masterpiece “RING UM DEN RING”, where Rainer delivered an outstanding performance in the role of Loge.
Rainer danced under the direction of Vladimir Malakhov all the important ballet parts, such as Prince Siegfried in SWAN LAKE, the poet Lenski in ONEGIN and the title role in TCHAIKOVSKY. After 12 years of a successful career in Berlin he obtained the highly coveted position as a principal dancer at the Miami City Ballet – one of the finest classical dance companies in the US.
Interview with Rainer Krenstetter in Miami Beach by Evi Hock, creator of ballettloversblog.com
What did you last dance as a guest artist and at Miami City Ballet?
I just returned from Germany where I danced in Karlsruhe Balanchine‘s famous “STARS & STRIPES” with the awesome Ashley Bouder, a principal dancer of the New York City Ballet. Before the summer break here in Miami, I danced Balanchine’s DIVERTIMENTO NO. 15.
Photo: Rainer Krenstetter and Simone Messmer, principal dancers at the Miami City Ballet in DIVERTIMENTO No. 15, choreography by George Balanchine
Miami City Ballet has many Balanchine ballets as part of their repertoire. What are your favorite ones?
As I have only been here since 2014, I have not yet danced too many – but I love the part I had in A MIDSUMMER NIGHT‘S DREAM, the Pas de deux in the second part. It is a beautiful, beautiful Pas de deux. ALLEGRO BRILLANTE is a good mix of speed in the adagio sections – very quiet, just beautiful steps and wonderful music. Tchaikovsky’s PAS DE DEUX is the one I love most, though it is difficult to dance – very quick and demanding.
What is it about dancing Balanchine that you love so much? What are the challenges?
Balanchine evolved his own technique by reworking basic movements in ways that best presented them to the audience. It is all about musicality and speed. His works are very challenging for the dancers – he created very difficult Pas de deuxs, requiring very fast footwork and difficult partnering. Balanchine’s style uses flexed hands, turned-in legs and off-centered positions, which means your body feels a bit off balance and twisted.
Photo: Rainer Krenstetter and Ashley Bouder, Principal dancer with the New York City Ballet in George Balanchine‘s STARS & STRIPES
Unlike in Berlin, where I used to dance and interpret the role of a character, Balanchine didn’t do a lot of full-length ballets. Most of Balanchine’s works are very short, so everything is stuffed into a 20-30 minute ballet. That means dancing at faster and more difficult tempos. You need to have very high stamina. You can’t cheat or relax in these short pieces, and you feel very naked on stage as there is no way to hide behind costumes or stage props. It is pure dancing. It is dance itself!
When I started at the Miami City Ballet, I realized that the Balanchine technique in the US is much more difficult than in Europe. I had to work on my technique very hard. The footwork is much quicker. When I studied at the Royal Ballet School in London I learned how to do the steps. In the American technique you see the end of the steps – you don’t want to see the in between, so the dancing has to be quick and sharp, step after step. Even the daily training is more intense. The barre training is much longer – many, many tendus and jetés in a different speed and a different tempo. You always have to go faster to go into the step.
Why did you choose to go from Staatsballett Berlin to the Miami City Ballet?
My highlight in Berlin was when Vladimir Malakhov offered me the contract of a principal dancer in 2013. I loved working with him, as he was both my idol and friend since I was a kid. I danced all the important ballet parts, such as Prince in CINDERELLA and NUTCRACKER, Gringoire in ESMERALDA, the title role in FIREBIRD and choreograhies of Roland Petit and William Forsythe. I was devastated when Malakhov had to leave.
After 12 years of Staatsballett Berlin, I decided to go the US to dance Balanchine, had always been my dream. I was more than lucky to get accepted at the Miami City Ballet, as the director wanted me and had a position available. The repertoire is challenging and different every year. It was hard to adjust in my first year, but now I love living here.
Do you dance contemporary as well?
We perform all the American choreographers, such as Jerome Robbins, Twyla Tharp, Paul Taylor – we even did Alexei Ratmansky‘s FAIRY KISS this year. Lourdes Lopez, the Artistic director of Miami City Ballet, sees me as an elegant dancer, the type of prince you need in a classical ballet. She loves my dancing: very clean, classical and with a softer technique, so she casts me in SWAN LAKE, GISELLE and the classical Balanchine ballets.
Rainer Krenstetter in GISELLE
Is there more competition in the US than in Germany?
There is only seven or eight classical companies in the US where you can make a living as a ballet dancer, in comparison to Germany where there are more than ten companies. Consequently, it is very hard to get a position and then you have to fight and work very hard every single day. You don’t have any benefits. The positions are not as safe as in Germany or Austria. Even after maternity leave you have to come back very quickly or you will lose your job.
Where is the audience more excited?
We tour in four cities in Florida. The audience in Ft. Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Naples is definitely older than in Miami and in Europe. People here enjoy our performances very much. We dance mostly triple bills which are selling very well. In Berlin people prefer full length ballets.
The applause is intense but shorter here; no 15 minutes curtain calls, no flowers as we used to have at Staatsballett Berlin. I have the feeling that after the performance, Americans are already thinking about dinner or how to get home as quick as possible. Going to the opera or a ballet is not such a big thing in the US like in Europe. It’s more for entertainment.
In Japan it is very weird as well. Japanese people really love ballet but the applause is very quiet. While it sounds as if they don’t like the performance, they wait for a signature afterwards and appreciate your dancing very much. In L.A. people even ate ice-cream during a performance! While I think it is disrespectful to the dancers, these are probably cultural differences.
What is coming up in the future? When and where can we see you dancing?
I started teaching as a ballet master and giving workshops at festivals. I don’t plan so much because things often don’t happen according to plan. The new season has just started and we are rehearsing now. My next performance will be in October, where I am casted in EMERALDS and DIAMONDS in JEWELS. DIAMONDS is a tremendous Pas de deux which I really love.
I am also invited as a guest artist to dance “Solor”, BAYADERE in Washington, and COPPELIA in Tokyo.
PRINCIPAL DANCER AT MIAMI CITY BALLET
Hometown: Vienna, Austria
Rainer Krenstetter was born into a dance family in Vienna where he began his ballet training at the Ballet School of the Vienna State Opera. In 1999, he was accepted into the Royal Ballet School in London and continued his training there until 2000 when he became a corps de ballet member with the Vienna State Opera Ballet. In 2002, he joined the Berlin State Ballet under the direction of Vladimir Malakhov and went through the ranks up to principal dancer in 2013. He joined Miami City Ballet as a principal dancer in November 2014.
Throughout his training, Krenstetter participated and won medals in various international ballet competitions including in Vienna, Brasilia and Luxembourg, culminating in his first place win at the Prix de Lausanne in 1999.
Throughout his prolific career, Krenstetter has danced principal and leading roles in most ballets in the classical repertoire including Swan Lake, Giselle, Don Quixote, Le Corsaire, The Nutcracker, Coppélia, Onegin, Firebird, The Sleeping Beauty, Romeo and Juliet, La Sylphide and Cinderella. Additionally, he has danced in ballets by George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, Vladimir Malakhov, Kenneth MacMillan, Auguste Bournonville, Michel Fokine, Alexei Ratmansky, Roland Petit, Maurice Béjart, Hans van Manen, Uwe Scholz, Clarke Tippet and Jirí Kylián, among others.
Krenstetter has also performed as a guest artist in various companies and galas internationally in Europe, Australia, South America and Asia; been a member of the jury at the International Ballet Competition in Rome and Riga; and guest taught at several dance workshops in many countries.
Roles since joining MCB
A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Divertissement Pas de Deux)
Divertimento No. 15
George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker™ (Cavalier)
Swan Lake (Prince Siegfried)
Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux
Barber Violin Concerto
Glass Pieces (Second Movement)
The Fairy’s Kiss
Giselle, Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot (Albrecht)
Title photo: Rainer Krenstetter and Simone Messmer, principal dancers of the Miami City Ballet in GLASS PIECE, choreography by Jerome Robbins.