Dutch National Ballet in David Dawson’s perfect The Four Seasons

Live stream from Het Muziektheater, Amsterdam
June 15, 2021

David Dawson’s The Four Seasons is one of those blissful moments when dance, music and design chassé into alignment to create a moment of sublime beauty. Max Richter uses the palimpsest of Vivaldi’s famous melodies to recreate the changing seasons while designer Eno Henze echoes the shift in mood in the simplicity of geometric outlines. Dawson rescues ballet from the conventions of its aristocratic birth to find enlightenment and rebirth in the extremes of the body’s natural ability. His sixteen dancers really do fly as they race across the floor and launch into the air in unabashed elation, heightened by the sheer delight of returning to the stage.

The ballet is non-narrative but far from abstract as the individuality of the dancers and their emotions are vividly on display. Edo Wijnen gets plenty of opportunity to display his extraordinary ability to leap and turn and is teamed with Riho Sakamoto whose sweetness and charm disguise a steely strength. Their partnership has its serious moments but the warmth in their chemistry makes the dance seem almost secondary to lively flirtation.

Anna Tsygankova and Constantine Allen
in The Two of Us by Christopher Wheeldon
Photo Hans Gerritsen

Floor Eimers is paired with Constantine Allen in a fluid duet of fleet-footed runs and meetings that culminate in soaring lifts. Henze’s set, now a giant ring contrasts with limbs extended in angular lines. Nina Tonoli has the gift of giving herself totally to the movement and the moment. She is beautifully matched with James Stout who offers strength in the almost vertical lifts and a sensitive complement in their highly charged duet.

Challenges are not reserved for the soloists, the exhilarating section for the men fires on all cylinders. The skilfully structured ensemble work for the female dancers is no less powerful and passionate and all intricately woven into the music in top quality performances.

Coming back to one act ballets after his excursions into full length narrative, has brought new depth and maturity to Dawson’s choreography. Without losing the unity of style there is greater innovation in the choreography and amidst the ecstasy of pushing to the very edge, a quiet confidence that marks the work as a classic of our time. At its heart is the aesthetic beauty of a fifth position, the strength in an arched foot and the exquisite purity of the arabesque but within this contemporary ballet there is breathing space for each artist to blossom.

The same programme saw the European premiere of The Two of Us by Christopher Wheeldon, a choreographer who has true transatlantic appeal. It’s a gentle introspective duet carried by Joni Mitchell’s memorable songs to open the flood gates of embraceable memories.

Anna Tsygankova and Constantine Allen, dressed in haute couture onesies, capture the wistful warmth of reminiscences. This is Wheeldon in a more contemporary mood, perking up for a jazzy interlude, allowing feet an offbeat flex in balletic deviance but never losing the sophisticated edge. It ends as the couple exit on opposite sides but giving a backward glance, a ‘see you later’ rather than ‘goodbye’.