Ballet by John Neumeier

Second part of "The Floating World:
 First part : Seven Haiku of the Moon


  Claude Debussy
(arr. by Isao Tomita)
Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy
Franz Schubert
(arr. by Hans Zender)
Minoru Miki
Giuseppe Verdi
Antonio Vivaldi
Joji Yuasa
  John Neumeier

1 hour 5 min.


World Premiere
Tokyo Ballet, Tokyo, Februar 4, 2000


Original Cast
A Man   Naoki Takagishi
The Time   Kazuo Kimura
The Memory   Yukari Saito

Yuko Arai
Haruo Goto
Yukie Iwaki
Masayuki Morita
Masaki Oshima
Mika Yoshioka


European premiere of the complete version
The Hamburg Ballet, Hamburg, Juni 13, 2010


Original Hamburg Cast
A Man   Lloyd Riggins
The Time   Carsten Jung
The Memory   Anna Polikarpova

Catherine Dumont
Dario Franconi
Yuka Oishi
Lucia Solari
Thomas Stuhrmann
Alexandr Trusch


On Tour
2011 Baden-Baden

In the Repertory
The Tokyo Ballet


To be read before the performance

During my many visits and the tours made to Japan with my own company, The Hamburg Ballet, I was often struck by the importance of, and the attention paid to the changing of seasons. I learned that not only were there special seasonal foods, but the very dishes in which these foods were served also changed with the changing seasons. It was during such an "early autumn" meal with friends from the NBS association that I chose "the seasons" as the theme, the subject for the new work which Mr. Tadatsugu Sasaki had invited me to create for the 35th anniversary of the Tokyo Ballet.

From the beginning, of course, the ballet was not intended to reflect the typical changes in nature during Winter, Spring, Summer, and Autumn or their familiar cliché images. What interested me, and what I hoped the Japanese might relate to, was the feeling of season within the human being. Seasons of the Soul. The construction of the ballet would be episodic and therefore give me the opportunity to use many new Japanese dancers as well as renew acquaintances with those whom I had worked with in my last creation, ten years before. The ballet would be without a clearly defined narrative, so, I could choreograph as I now prefer: simply beginning – not knowing where the creative journey may take me, or how it will end!

A time of intense research followed this spontaneous decision. First regarding the music, it was clear to me from the beginning that a musical cycle describing the seasons from a single composer's point of view (such as Vivaldi's famous string composition) would not be appropriate for what I had in mind. As with my ballet "Seven Haiku of the Moon", created for the Tokyo Ballet in 1989, I wanted to approach Japanese culture in a very direct, honest and artistically constructive way. That is, not to copy Japanese "style" superficially, but rather to study and to try to through direct contact with music and poetry. Of course, such understanding remains subjective since it is my (American-European) understanding of Yuasa's music or a Haiku by Basho"—that inspires the choreography. On the other hand, the resulting creation becomes uniquely "Japanese" because of the very material I am creating with: all the dancers are Japanese! Also, it is clear that I will present my work firstly before a Japanese audience. This ballet whi ch I decided to call "Seasons – The Colors of Time" would certainly be a very different piece if choreographed for my own Hamburg Ballet! The "colors" of the title are reflected in the colors implied in many Chinese seasonal poems: black = winter (north), blue = spring (east), red = summer (south), and white = autumn (west).

In preparation for the ballet, I listened to all possible Japanese music dealing with the seasons. There is quite a lot of it! After experimenting with many, many possibilities and combinations, I chose in the end only three Asian and five European composers for the final version of the collage score. In their combination the separate musical pieces take on new qualities accord ing to what they follow or proceed. Debussy's Prélude "Footprints in Snow", for example became a leitmotif whose "footprints" track through the entire score. This piece takes on an almost oriental quality, with its sparse texture and stretches of tense silence. It was a long and difficult process to put together a solid musical structure. Each selection had to be interesting, danceable, and a contrast to each of the others, while the combination of all must be balanced, have coherence and tension, as well as allowing for dramatic choreographic development. I am most grateful for the advice and help of Ondrej Rudcenko and for his untiring assistance with this project.

Because of my love of Japanese poetry, and the research I had done for my ballet "Seven Haiku of the Moon", I was well aware that the seasons play a most important role in the literature of Japan. From the very beginning of Japanese poetry a deep consciousness of the seasons has existed. The art of choosing season words to increase layers of meaning and connotation is an important aspect of writing haiku. As a choreographer, I feel my particular art is most closely related to poetry. A ballet like "Seasons" cannot be described or explained as a simple story or novel might be. In my work, I search for a dreamlike logic and expect the audience not so much to "understand" as to emotionally experience the acti ons, characters, and situations of the ballet. "Seasons – The Colors of Time" is then a dance poem.

The central character experiences a kind of journey through the seasons. The question is, are these the exterior seasons of nature, are they seasons of the present, past, or future, or the interior seasons of his own existen ce and destiny. The seasons he experiences are sometimes reflected in his mood and actions, some times contrasting. At times, the man has various companions with and around him during his journey. He may, in fact, experience himself in other seasons of his life. But, as in every life, he is also accompanied by Time rushing him forward, and the blessing of Memory carrying him gently back.

John Neumeier


 Seven Haiku
of the Moon


go backprint