New York City Ballet’s Spring Season has so far been very Balanchine-heavy. The Stravinsky Festival and programming choices meant that we got to see Balanchine staples like Serenade, Apollo, Agon, Divertimento no. 15 and The Four Temperaments, whereas Jerome Robbins ballets have been few and far between. This week’s program balances things out with an All-Robbins double bill of Piano Pieces and The Four Seasons.

Roman Mejia in Jerome Robbins’ Piano Pieces
© Erin Baiano

Piano Pieces made its debut in 1981’s Tchaikovsky Festival. Arlene Croce called it “the biggest hit” of the festival. It has been revived so infrequently since, however, that last night was my introduction to the piece. I agreed with Croce that it was “a pleasant, uncomplicated experience, with no pretensions.” It’s set to a hodgepodge of Tchaikovsky piano pieces, including three from The Seasons, and is a tribute to Russian folk dance.

Everyone was making debuts and they all acquitted themselves admirably. Highlights were Roman Mejia who flew high and turned fast in a solo and polka pas de trois. Mira Nadon showed off her ravishing lines and sculptural stillness in the “October” pas de deux with Aaron Sanz. Emilie Gerrity and Jovani Furlan were also lovely in the Reverie pas. Tiler Peck and Sebastian Villarini-Velez danced a charming, spritely duet to November-Troika. The corps whipped themselves into a merry frenzy, and the finale looked a bit like something Igor Moiseyev’s folk dance company would have done.

Aaron Sanz and Mira Nadon in Jerome Robbins’ Piano Pieces
© Erin Baiano

So why isn’t Piano Pieces programmed more? One suspects that it’s all down to Robbins’ other piano ballets canceling this one out. As charming as Piano Pieces is, it lacks the depth of Dances at a Gathering, Goldberg Variations (seen earlier this season), or In the Night, and the crowd-pleasing humor of The Concert. Nonetheless, it is a lot of fun, and I hope to see it programmed more.

The Four Seasons is definitely one of Robbins’ most appealing works. It’s set to ballet music from Giuseppe Verdi’s I vespri siciliani, and it’s a tribute to the old-fashioned Paris Opéra spectacles. It’s divided (as you might have guessed) into four sections – Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall. The ballet works because there’s not a dull moment – it starts happily and maintains that energy for forty minutes. The music is always tuneful, the choreography visually pleasing, the costumes by Santo Loquasto eye-catching.

Chun Wai Chan, Indiana Woodward, and Company in Jerome Robbins’ The Four Seasons
© Erin Baiano

The cast assembled for this performance was excellent. Indiana Woodward and Chun Wai Chan made debuts in the Spring section and they were by far the strongest “season”. Woodward was effervescent and joyful, and gave the impression of simply floating on air. Chan partnered her so seamlessly you would never have thought this was their debut. Special mention should go to the four corps men in the Spring section, who nailed that simultaneous leapfrog sequence. Ashley Hod, Devin Alberda, and Andres Zuniga were spritely and funny in the Winter pas de trois. Emilie Gerrity and Amar Ramasar were sultry and languorous in “Summer”.

Amar Ramasar, Emilie Gerrity, and Company in Jerome Robbins’ The Four Seasons
© Erin Baiano

The only slight disappointment was the rip-roaring Fall bacchanal. This section is for virtuoso specialists. Unity Phelan and Andrew Veyette have wonderful qualities as dancers (her majestic persona and beauty, his amazing partnering skills), but neither of them excel at the huge grand jetés, multiple fouettés, barrel and corkscrew turns, and other crowd-wowing steps that is the Fall section. Daniel Ulbricht has been dancing the Faun for years and is always a marvel in this role. The springiness of his jumps just defies Father Time.

The Four Seasons is such a happy, appealing ballet that the audience barely noticed any unsteady moments. This All-Robbins program only runs through Friday. Go see it – it’s a lot of fun.

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