Val Caniparoli's new ballet, "The Seasons," is based on a "lost ballet" created by master choreographer Marius Petipa more than a century ago. Pacific Northwest Ballet premieres the piece Nov. 5 on a mixed bill that also includes works by Jerome Robbins, Jiri Kylian and Marco Goecke.
When Val Caniparoli’s ballet “The Seasons” makes its world premiere with Pacific Northwest Ballet (PNB) on Thursday, it will be a new page in a chapter of dance history. The new work is set to music by Russian composer Alexander Glazunov, who wrote it as a ballet score for choreographer Marius Petipa more than a century ago.
While the music survived — audiences may recognize some familiar passages — the Petipa ballet did not. “It’s sort of a lost ballet,” said Caniparoli. “There’s no record of it, just a lot of pictures.”
Caniparoli, a native of Renton who’s been an active choreographer for nearly 30 years, said that the music came to him from Bruce Simpson at the Louisville Ballet (which shares “The Seasons” with PNB as a co-commission). “What’s great is that it’s something I wouldn’t normally pick, because I didn’t know much about it.”
He noted that the music has a very balletic, traditional feel; while he’s often made less obvious musical choices (his popular “Lambarena,” for example, is set to traditional African music and to Bach), he was drawn to the idea of creating new choreography for this piece. “I don’t usually pick that kind of score,” he said, “but I love a challenge.”
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Intrigued by the score’s history, Caniparoli found that the ballet did have an existing scenario. “I was going to abandon that,” he said, “but then I thought, why not? I wanted to treat it in an old-fashioned way. There’s no real story, but vignettes and interesting characters throughout.”
The ballet mirrors the seasons, beginning with winter. In a recent rehearsal, PNB soloist Seth Orza was the whirling center of a sequence as Zephyr, clad in a long coat that created its own breeze.
“The Seasons” marks the fifth Caniparoli ballet to join PNB’s repertory, beginning in 1980 with “Street Songs,” his first choreographed work. His artistic base for many years has been San Francisco Ballet, where he began his career as a 19-year-old scholarship student in 1972 and is still a dancer under contract as well as an independent choreographer.
Caniparoli is currently resident choreographer for the Tulsa (Oklahoma) Ballet and is busy with commissions from a number of companies; he said he’s now booking choreographic work two or three years in advance. Next, he’ll move on a new work for Milwaukee (Wisconsin) Ballet, and a dance/theater piece for San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theater.
But for now, he’s enjoying being back with the company that “feels like home,” and nervously anticipating being in the audience when “The Seasons” takes the PNB stage. “It’s awful!” he said of the experience of watching a new work. “I’m comatose. I’m usually standing in the back, I can’t sit. It’s an out-of-body experience, because there’s nothing you can do.”
“The Seasons” will make its world premiere as part of the “Director’s Choice” repertory evening, along with the PNB premiere of Jiri Kylian’s 1991 ballet “Petite Mort” (music by Mozart) and revivals of Marco Goecke’s “Mopey” (music by C.P.E. Bach and The Cramps) and Jerome Robbins’ “West Side Story Suite” (music by Leonard Bernstein).
Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or email@example.com