City Ballet: Interplay, Opus 19/The Dreamer and The Four Seasons

Dust off your pointe shoes and get those leotards out of your drawers: The 2010-2011 New York City Ballet season has begun! And it’s off to a great start. City Ballet had a full week of “kick-off” events to welcome patrons to the new season, and particularly to their first-ever fall season. When I went on Thursday night, there was a lovely jazz duo playing in the promenade inside the State theatre and patrons could lounge on plush, oversize ottomans while enjoying the music. Or, like one couple, you could have shown off your own dancing skills and taken a twirl around the promenade. It was a very nice way to start the season, and a great way to transition from day- and work-time to nighttime fun!

First up on Thursday night, an all Robbins-night, was Interplay, which was fun, fun, fun! At first, I thought that if NY Export: Opus Jazz conveys the exuberance of teenagers, then Interplay conveys the wonderful playfulness of pre-teens. (In fact the costumes were similar: A mix of black pants and brightly colored tops for guys and brightly colored leotards and skirts for the gals.) The first two movements of Interplay, named "Free Play" and "Horseplay", were full of a child-like, youthful energy. They played lots of games with each other: Leap frog, follow the leader and mirror games, to name a few. These first two movements (and the final movement, "Team Play") were incredibly playful and fun. And the end of "Horseplay" was just one big smiling inducing thrill.

The third movement, however, made me rethink my pre-teen, pre-cursor to Opus Jazz theme. "Byplay" was a sultry, slinky pas de deux (between the wonderful Tiler Peck and Amar Ramasar). I hope pre-teens aren’t behaving this way! That said, it was a wonderfully sensual pas de deux, and with the Fosse-like poses of the on-lookers, I felt like I was watching a couple in a Chicago jazz club. Very smooth.

The piece as a whole was great fun, replete with energetic dancing, claps and stomps, chemistry and expert technique. I would love to see this as a complement to NY Export: Opus Jazz on one bill.

Next up was Opus 19/The Dreamer. This was pleasant, lovely and even interesting here and there but only mildly engaging. The score, by Sergei Prokofiev, was 100% classical, which isn’t always my cup of tea. (I prefer early gray with a splash of milk.) One of my favorite City Ballet dancers, Robert Fairchild, says this is his favorite ballet. Unfortunately, he wasn’t dancing on Thursday night; I’d be interested to see this again – perhaps when I’m better rested – with Fairchild dancing to try to uncover what he feels is so special about this ballet.

The third and final piece of the evening was the reason I attended: The Four Seasons. This has always been one of my favorite ballets (right up there with Opus Jazz and, now, Estancia) yet each time I anticipate going, I seem to forget why I like it so much. This is of no concern because after watching it, I am always once again reminded of why it is my favorite ballet.

The Four Seasons, set to Verdi’s operatic score, is just about everything I think a great ballet should be: Whimsical, beautiful, playful and skillful. It shows off Robbins’s immeasurable technique while also showcasing what I love about his choreography (as opposed to, say, Balanchine): You can see the music in Robbins’s choreography. As a music fanatic, I completely understand how music can move you; how it can tell your body how to move, and I love that in Robbins’s choreography you can tell that he understands this, too.

We begin with Winter. The corps de ballet dancing around in white look like little snowflakes flitting about. Breezes begin blowing them around and they huddle together to stay warm until a snowflake queen, if you will, enters and empowers the women to “dance their cares away”, warming themselves up with movement and banishing the breezes from their winter wonderland.

Then the lights change and Spring enters. (Spring is always my favorite piece of this piece.) If you’ll allow me to be punny for a second, I’d like to say that there seemed to literally be a spring in their step! Seriously, the Spring dancers were buoyant and full of renewed energy, just like we often are during that season. Principal dancers Jenifer Ringer and, one of my faves, Jared Angle, were superb. Ringer was like a little sprite playing in the field on the first day of spring. And, I swear, Jared Angle’s feet never touched the floor! He jumped and leaped about, as if enjoying the beautiful weather now that he’s out of hibernation.

Summer has a very Arabian Nights feel to it – slow and simmering – like a good, sweaty, languid summer day. And finally Fall comes ‘round (complete with Antonio Carmena as a Puck-ish muse), and it looks like the leaves are coming to life for one last hurrah before they fall to the ground. Fall ends with a flurry of jumps and turns – and about 2,700 pirouettes!

The Four Seasons has been and remains my favorite ballet because of its technique, energy, story-telling and vibrancy. What a wonderful way to welcome the new season!

As always, visit nycballet.com for more information about the ballets and to buy tickets.

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