Book Review: A Memoir by Rainer Krenstetter
Back in 2002, I was lucky to see Rainer on stage in Berlin, when Vladimir Malakhov became artistic director of Staatsballett Berlin. I will never forget watching him dance as Loge, the God of fire in RING UM DEN RING by Maurice Béjart, as Lenski in John Cranko’s ONEGIN, or as Tschaikovsky in Boris Eifman’s ballet. I’ve also been lucky enough to interview Rainer on his career as principal dancer with the Miami City Ballet. So I couldn’t wait for his memoir when it was released in the spring of 2022.
Reading this autobiography, I was amazed by the insights it brought into the life of a dancer, a life often unexpected by audiences.
Raised in Vienna by a family of dancers, Rainer pushed himself hard throughout his adolescent years and struggled with failure. There, his teacher Michael Birkmeyer pushed him to his limits and inspired him to dance from the heart.
Surprising even himself, in 1999 he won the most prestigious Prix de Lausanne for young dancers, being the first Austrian first prize winner. All his dreams were starting to come true, from becoming a principal dancer at Staatsballett Berlin under his childhood idol Vladimir Malakhov, to accepting an offer at Miami City Ballet in 2014. And now in April of this year, he danced his farewell performance in Balanchine’s outstanding piece JEWELS.
Cooperation with Jason Ashwood
In his memoir Not Without Tears – A Life Lived Onstage, Rainer collaborated with British photographer Jason Ashwood to share heartfelt insight into his life’s challenges offstage, the rigours of rehearsals, and reveals why love, and loss, shaped his onstage persona (Quote on the backside of his book). Thanks to Jason for providing his awesome images for my post. Learn more about him https://www.ashwoodphotography.co.uk/
What made this book so special to read
Rainer is very modest about his successful career, but very emotional and honest when it comes to tough times. What I didn’t know before reading this biography:
- „I danced like an octopus“ Rainer was very frustrated in his mid-teens as he was not as tall as a professional dancer was supposed to be.
- After attending the Royal Ballet School he decided not to accept the highly prestigious contract there, instead going to Vienna. „….performing for Renato Zanella (ballet director of the Vienna Ballet) would allow me to perform bigger roles much earlier in my career, but there were other personal reasons too.“
- Leaving Berlin behind to learn to dance Balanchine the American way, was a tough decision but the highlight of his career. „Despite my settled and successful life, I felt the need to move on to explore the wider form of dance…. Changing from my classical style of dancing became a daunting chance, compared with my upbringing through the Russian Vaganova system of teaching, the American Balanchine style tends to be much faster.“
Rainer is still deeply involved in the ballet world, dancing on various projects, moderating a ballet gala and passing on his knowledge to rising dancers as artistic director for a company in Tokyo, as well as the Margot Fonteyn Ballet Academy in Arizona.
A touching and honest memoir of a principal dancer’s journey, with many surprising insights. Worth reading for every ballet lover!
My Interviews with Rainer
RAINER KRENSTETTER, PRINCIPAL
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 member with the Vienna State Opera Ballet. In 2002, he joined the Staatsballett Berlin under the direction of Vladimir Malakhov and went through the ranks up to Principal dancer. He joined Miami City Ballet as a Principal dancer in 2014 and gave his last performance in April 2022. In 2020 he was appointed Artistic Director of the company Unblanche in Tokyo and in 2021 he became Designated Artistic Director at The Margot Fonteyn Academy of Ballet. Since leaving Miami City Ballet he is dancing as an international guest principal dancer all around the world.
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, Cinderella and La Bayadere. 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, Jirí Kylián and William Forsythe among others.
Krenstetter has also performed as a guest artist in various companies and galas internationally in Europe, Australia, North and 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, schools and companies in many countries.
Rainer received the 2016 Miami Life Award for “Best Classical Dancer” and released a book “Not without tears a life lived on stage”.