Revisiting the Balanchine’s Four Temperaments this past two weekends has been wonderful, and I wanted to share some internal thoughts that I’ve had as well as from friends that have attended the ballet.
The role of Phlegmatic in The Four Temperaments was the first principal role I danced with OBT back in 2006. I could dance that part everyday and still find new things in it. As Bob Hicks said in his review, “What a feeling it must be, on stage, to know you’re in the middle of a masterwork: cavorting with the gods.” Dancing in this ballet does indeed feel like swimming in the middle of greatness.
Balanchine famously said, “See the music, hear the dance.” I never understood what it meant to “hear the dance” before, but after opening night a friend said to me, “The music was so quiet, it was like I could hear you dancing.” He later said that as his dance education continues that he finds the music enhances the dancing, and the dancing enhances the music.
I love the Four Ts because of the education that it offers to both dancers, audience members and musicians. Linda Besant, our resident dance historian, said in her Performance Perspectives presentation that there was a conductor in New York that would go to see the Four Temperaments and listen to Hindemith’s music strictly so he could learn how to conduct. It teaches dancers how to dance with their entire body and to trust the stripped down nature of the movement as well as the sparsity of costumes and sets. It teaches an audience to see dance for the sake of dance, without the luxury of a story to follow.
The 4Ts is always a hit with dancers, and I hope it was as educational and enjoyable to watch and participate in as it was for us to dance.