New York City Ballet

"The Four Seasons"

New York State Theater, New York, NY

January 11, 2002
By Jeff Kuo

Choreography - Jerome Robins
Music - Verdi (ballet music from "I Vespri Siciliani," "I Lombardi," and "Il Travatore")
Scenery and costumes - Santo Loquasto
Lighting - Jennifer Tipton

Though I haven't seen I Vespri Siciliani, I suspect that no opera producer would have let this ballet share the same stage with his singers—its larger than life dance theatrics would have blown any opera (even the one it was nominally a part of) right off the stage and everybody would have gone home early.

I was going to introduce The Four Seasons by writing a little bit about how Diaghilev had Balanchine study opera, but this is a Robbins work. This ballet is to the opera as the other evening's work, Dances at a Gathering, is to solo piano. The Four Seasons is writ large with broad swathes of almost Day-Glo colors on a canvas the size of a parachute. Think of how you might try to describe what a coloratura is.

The Winter section starts with the corps girls in pale blue tutus with white decorations being buffeted about the stage by the Winter Winds, played by Jeroen Hofmans and Alexander Ritter. The girls chafing their hands, rubbing their legs and ears is the cutest thing since Swanilda and her Friends' quaking knees in Coppelia. Carrie Lee Riggins enters and is also blown about by the chill winds.

However, the music changes and an operatic melody emerges. The corps shoosh away the Winds and follow the soloist to center stage. They're saying, enough recitative … now aria! Forget the world of "irrational symbols and charming animals"—we're here to DANCE!

The choreographic handling follows the music—contrasting Robbins' Winter with Petipa/Balanchine's Snowflakes is the difference between the symphonic and the operatic. The three soloists were winning together. They'd probably be good in a Coppelia peasant's variation.

The Spring dancers are costumed in bright green and flowing dress for the Spring ballerina, not Classical style tutus like in Winter. This section features a pas de deux for Pascale van Kipnis and Philip Neal and a pas de quatre for four male dancers. The men's pas de quatre is a humorous section with entrechats to the 1/32nds of the trumpet. Think of the male pas de quatre from Raymonda Act III. Or better yet from the way Robbins has them leaping in warp and woof patterns, a Lippizaner stallion horse ballet. The pas de quatre dancers are Stuart Capps, Kyle Froman, Craig Hall, and Stephen Hanna.

Perhaps because Nutcracker Act II was on this stage only a week and a half ago I thought I saw some left over sultriness of "Arabian Chocolate" in the Summer section. Reds and yellows dominate in watercolor profusion. Rachel Rutherford and Sebastien Marcovici are languorous and legato. NYCB cover girls, Deanna McBrearty, Eva Natanya, and Saskia Beskow are in the Summer Corps (even the coldest day of the year would seem summer-y around their life size posters around Lincoln Center).

Fall gets the showiest variations: bravura pas de deux for Alexandra Ansanelli and Benjamin Millepied alternate with showy Soviet Jester variations (ok, it was Pan) for Antonio Carmena. Maybe it's the Harvest Spirit or Octoberfest or all that grape stomping (remember that from Guillem's Giselle?). The build-up from Winter to the Fall finale reminds me of the inevitable momentum in Landers' Etudes. Fall ballerina, Alexandra, has a variation featuring a lot of turns. Did I see her do a quintuple turn? Balanchine had cautioned against doing more than two or three ("…then audience start to count") but I can imagine that the temptation amidst all the general fun must be tremendous.

Final comment: I usually disapprove of non-dancing roles on general principle (ballet is about dance not portraiture…that's what "Pageant of the Masters" is for). The Four Seasons has embodiments of Janus, the ballet's MC, and the divinities of Fall (Jason Fowler), Spring (Melissa Walter), Summer (Chrissy Schulz in blazing hot red lipstick), and Fall (Andrew Robertson). The way the gods and goddesses lend an aspect of ceremony, a sort of operatic "in-your-faceness"; like saying, "this is divertissement, by god, and don't forget it!" As if to emphasize the point, each season section ends in a tableaux out of which the soloists step away in order to bow to general and enthusiastic applause.

Occasional note: From hearing random chat around the theater (including an OK length line at the box office which I hope put Peter Martins in an optimistic mood as he walked discreetly past), it seems that many if not most have been long time attendees for longer than most of my classmates are old.


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Edited by Marie.

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