Behind MacMillan’s The Four Seasons with choreologist Giacomo Bevilacqua
Kenneth MacMillan’s 1975 piece The Four Seasons will be performed by our talented 1st and 2nd Year Upper School students in the upcoming Summer Performance season at Opera Holland Park and the Royal Opera House.
Our students have had the pleasure of learning from expert choreologist and ballet dancer Giacomo Bevilacqua in the staging of MacMillan’s original work.
Preserving choreographic intent
Giacomo Bevilacqua trained in the Russian classical methodology with the Accademia di Ballo del Teatro alla Scala in Milan before joining the ensemble of Staatsballett Berlin. Joining the company as a member of the corps de ballet, Giacomo worked with a plethora of renowned choreographers and their repetiteurs, including George Balanchine, John Cranko, Jiří Kylián, Nacho Duato, Patrice Bart and Vladimir Malakhov.
During his time with the company, Giacomo worked alongside a choreologist and was fascinated by the ability to analyse and record human movement in the recording and restaging of dance works. From Frederick Ashton to Christopher Wheeldon, many choreographers and companies worldwide utilise the Benesh Movement Notation methodology to analyse, notate, preserve and restage dance choreographies.
Inspired by these prestigious choreographers, Giacomo completed his studies and became a qualified choreologist. We spoke with him about his passion for choreology:
I was so fascinated by the richness of detail the Benesh Movement Notation system could preserve. I found that every time a ballet was restaged without a notation system, the choreography was always different, and there were always mistakes and incongruencies in the detail of the choreography. What fascinated me about the notation technique was that the original choreography was still so perfect, squared and rich in detail.
Kenneth MacMillan’s The Four Seasons
Kenneth MacMillan’s The Four Seasons was first performed in 1975 by The Royal Ballet at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. The ballet was tailor-made for the company and devised to showcase the company’s depth from corps de ballet to Soloists and Principals after the corps de ballet received the Evening Standard Ballet Award for outstanding contribution to dance in 1974.
Set to music from three of Giuseppe Verdi’s operas, the ballet involves a series of ensemble dances, requiring flawless technique, intricate footwork, pirouettes, and allegro from both male and female dancers.
Macmillan received praise for his inventive choreography and distinctive vocabulary of movement, with many labelling The Four Seasons as a ‘choreographic jewel’ requiring the highest level of technique and artistry.
History of The Four Seasons
The Four Seasons was last performed by The Royal Ballet School in 2011 in our Royal Opera House Summer Performance. Rehearsed by Nicola Tranah and Zhan Atymtayev, this year’s performance features a large cast of male and female 1st and 2nd Year Upper School Students.
Thanks to always working alongside a choreologist, MacMillan’s ideas and choreography have been well preserved, with a plethora of information and materials available from his landmark ballets. After conducting a thorough movement analysis of the original work to preserve MacMillan’s choreographic intention, Giacomo worked with our students to restage The Four Seasons. Here he speaks about the challenges of the restaging process and MacMillan’s choreography:
I enjoy the challenge of MacMillan’s choreography. The steps are all from the classical ballet vocabulary, and are not too complex, but his ability to combine simple movements in a complex structure, playing alongside a quicker tempo than usual and constant changes of direction, makes the piece very interesting for the audience to watch.
The piece is choreographically intense, complex and will be a great challenge for the students to master.
Set to take the stage at Opera Holland Park and the Royal Opera House, The Four Seasons will provide a captivating display of technique, artistry and inventive choreography. Giacomo was full of praise for our dancers:
The dancers are incredibly skilled, well-trained and professional. They are motivated to learn and keen to challenge themselves with the piece.
Our students are so fortunate to benefit from Giacomo’s coaching, and we thank him for sharing his expertise.
The Royal Ballet School brings you MacMillan’s The Four Seasons with generous support from Nishi Somaiya.
The Royal Ballet School’s Summer Performances are sponsored by Kinoshita Group.
Please note an earlier version of this blog post erroneously stated that Giacomo had been promoted to Soloist at Staatsballett Berlin.