Don Quixote

American Ballet Theatre; 

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Staged by former dancer and Artistic Director Kevin McKenzie, this is a funny ballet.  Ballet has much in common with pantomime and the body language here can be hilarious.  The fact that comic moves are carried ot by some of the best dancers in the world makes them all the more successful in eliciting humor.

Classical narrative ballet tells a story, not just by the pas de deux, chaînés, and en pointe dance steps, but by all manner of easily understood gestures.  In this work that is done beautifully.  You need not know a whit of ballet to get the meanings here.  To go from the ridiculous to the sublime, one can compare certain moves with the Three Stooges.  Okay, from the WAY ridiculous to the near sublime, but certain of the comedic slaps evoked those characters, however uncharacteristic a reference that may be in the context of a ballet review.

Don Quixote and Sancho Panza are mere bit players in this program.  The real stars are Angel Corella as Basilio, a poor barber, Marcelo Gomes as Espada, a famous matador and the wonderful Paloma Herrera as Kitri, the–what else–girl who is betrothed to one other than the man she loves.  So many ballets and operas have this theme.  Love must conquer money & tradition & control & religion & family–anything and everything which stands in its way.  Sometimes it does, as in this light piece; often it doesn’t, as in Swan Lake, Giselle and of course the all-time classic romantic tragedy:  Romeo & Juliet. 

But here, thank goodness, Basilio and Kitri work it out with her buffoon father and buffoon betrothed accepting the inevitable and everyone living happily ever after, twirling and balancing endlessly en pointe which, by the way, Ms. Herrera is really good at!

The principals are well supported by solo and corps dancers;  the sets and costumes are great.

With ABT you generally get a fine show and most of their programs, if you have a taste for dance, are well worth your while.

One exception was last week’s Rabbit & Rogue, a world premiere by Twyla Tharp, which I have reviewed separately.  There was little redemption in that.  Even these fine dancers could not save such an ill-conceived, overly complex dance set to lousy music.