The saving grace of the week was dancing Balanchine’s The Four Temperaments. I have been doing the First Theme in 4T’s for such a long time that it feels like it was made on me, though of course it wasn’t. (This is one of Balanchine’s gifts: his ballets are so effortlessly habitable. A mere hour after learning his choreography one feels intrinsically rooted in the movement and the music.) Balanchine created 4T’s for the inauguration of Ballet Society in 1946. He had privately commissioned the Paul Hindemith score in 1940 and only later decided it should become a ballet.
The First Theme feels more like yoga than ballet, which is probably why it was such a welcome distraction. It consists of sustained, contorted poses—one for each note in the score. It is pure and literal: when the strings’ notes ascend, I get lifted up. When the piano is heavily clanged, I am accordingly dropped nearly to the ground and dragged offstage during its lingering rumble. Extended notes for the strings become slow promenades in which my legs wrap around my partner’s ankle, thigh, and neck. It is an impassive, asexual Kama Sutra. It requires an intense focus