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A More Human Don Quixote

Los Angeles
Dorothy Chandler Pavilion
06/23/2011 -  & 24, 25(M), 25, 26 June, 2011
Ludwig Minkus: Don Quixote
Ballet Nacional de Cuba, First Dancers, Soloists, and Corps de ballet: Annette Delgado (Kitri), Dani Hernández (Basilio), Leandro Pérez (Don Quixote), Javier Sánchez (Sancho Panza), Ariadna Suárez (Dulcinea), Alfredo Ibánez (Espada), Verónica Corveas (Mercedes), Félix Rodríguez (Lorenzo), Ernesto Álvarez (Camacho), Analucía Prado (Juanita), Grettel Morejón (Piquilla), Amaya Rodríguez (Queen of the Dryads), Maureen Gil (Love), Roberto Vega (Chief Gypsy), Jessie Domínguez (Graciosa), Yanier Gómez (Young Gypsy), Yanier Gómez, Camilo Ramos, Omar Morales, Osiel Gounod, Arián Molina, Edward González (Bullfighters)
Los Angeles Opera Orchestra, Giovanni Duarte (Conductor)
Salvador Fernández (Set and Costume Designer), Alicia Alonso, Marta García, María Elena Llorente, (Choreography, after Alexander Gorsky and Marius Petipa)

(© Jacques Moatti)

Alicia Alonso’s Cuban National Ballet winds up their month shy 2011 U.S. Tour by traveling to Los Angeles’ Music Center with five performances of Ludwig Minkus’ Don Quixote. Moving from East to West, the esteemed dance company has alternated programs between this repertoire favorite and a portrait snapshot of 19th century traditional ballet entitled The Magic of the Dance. Alonso’s Don Quixote is a result of protracted research through personal experience and historical context that bears several thoughtful and significant insights. A true visionary, Alonso retains the boundaries of tradition by respecting Miguel de Cervantes’ literary classic where by Don Quixote is personified as a quintessential combination of pensive philosopher and idiosyncratic chivalrous knight.

Collaborating with Alonso, Marta García and María Elena Llorente, creatively depict Don Quixote’s idealistic beauty, Dulcinea, as a veiled Kitri who flits on and off stage and on pointe in the opening of Act I while lithely floating into the Dryad introduction of Act II. In the opening of the aforementioned tableau a second Don Quixote comes to life behind a stationary windmill battered Don Quixote, re-emphasizing the title character’s actuation of the dream and continuing fluidity. Many ballet companies fail to fold Don Quixote actively into the action, losing connectivity. Such is not the case in this Don Quixote featuring Leandro Pérez’s thoughtful pas de deux alongside Kitri in Act II.

The pantomime routines are coherent with understated inflexions that are elucidated by Salvador Fernández’s portioned colorful costuming particularly in Kitri’s lambent red dress complimented by the beautiful coiffure and expectant hairstyle, Camacho’s royal French blue uniform, Kitri’s opportunistic father, Lorenzo, wearing an absurd black head band, and finally a striking filigreed white suit worn by Dani Hernández, to name a few. Don Quixote’s costuming is a bit odd in that his full suit of armor is missing below the waist, though this is logical by making his garb less cumbersome during his abbreviated dance segments. Sánchez is entertaining enough, but tends to overplay the part.

One of the most poignant chapters of Don Quixote exists in Act II Scene II with the splendid choreography of the Dryads’ mistresses reminiscent of Swan Lake. Scantly reminiscent of M.C. Escher’s graphics, this set is grounded in dull brown that’s fortunately offset by the corp de ballet’s traditional costuming bearing a soft blue pallet and accentuated hues from Ruddy Artiles’ palatable lighting. This is the most visually pleasing of the three sets. Amaya Rodríguez demonstrates requisite qualities as The Queen, dancing superbly and pliably; Maureen Gil in the role as Love, blossoms with impish and effortless delight during the flute-touting orchestration of “Dulcinea Variation.”

(© Nancy Reyes)

Justifiably, the center of action goes to Anette Delgado’s Kitri and betrothed Basilio danced by Dani Hernández. Delgado serves up an economic plate of beaux gestes alongside a dish of tasteful footwork that helps heighten Hernández’s stunning acrobatic qualities. Act III’s pax de deux is a crowning moment; “Kitri’s Variation” in Act III is electrifying.

Dressed in a deep purple dress, Verónica Corveas as Mercedes has good lines and radiates an abundance of smiles, pairing off nicely with Alfredo Ibánez’s Espada who’s well grounded in leading his entourage of bullfighters with brilliant leaps, flowing red capes and intricate patterns. Though brief, Jesse Domínguez’s portrayal of Graciosa has the most pronounced arabesque penchée in the performance.

Ludwig Minkus’ score, assigned to the Los Angeles Opera Orchestra, performs satisfactorily enough, but lacks a certain spark. There’s an absence of sharpness due in part to Giovanni Duarte’s subtly erratic tempo which loses preciseness with the corps. Sloppy timing in relation to the simultaneous closing of curtain, notes and steps unbraids the production’s tightness.

Color abounds in Salvador Fernández’s artistry, yet not all is sophistically pleasing. Of note, the sets in Acts I and III look tiresome and stodgy that fights with the kitschy calico costuming in the crowd scenes. The black stocking caps worn by the predominance of men during the majority of the production causes irritating distraction to the dancing itself. In Act III, the party/wedding contains a mixture of frumpy black wigged women in ceremonial gown while incongruously interspersed with women wearing traditional tutus, appearing more like we’re in Ponchielli’s “Dance of the Hours.”

Nonetheless, Los Angeles should be proud to be host to the Cuban National Ballet. This Don Quixote provides a spectrum of accomplished members possessing individual merits, but, by far, the company’s alternating performance piece, The Magic of the Dance is more memorable.

Christie Grimstad



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