Chicago Dance Review: DON QUIXOTE (The Royal Ballet at the Auditorium Theatre)

by Lawrence Bommer on June 19, 2015

in Theater-Chicago

Post image for Chicago Dance Review: DON QUIXOTE (The Royal Ballet at the Auditorium Theatre)

THE GIFT OF JOY, FROM LONDON TO CHICAGO

It’s been 37 years–two generations!–since the Royal Ballet visited Chicago and the Auditorium Theatre. They couldn’t have come bearing a better gift to prove the fondness of absence: Carlos Acosta’s gorgeous, sumptuous, enthralling 2013 staging of one of ballet’s happiest scores and stories. You simply can’t get further from death than the sheer joy and contagious exuberance of Don Quixote, three thrill-seeking acts of dance at its most dynamic. A glowing and faithful version of Ludwig Minkus’ captivating ballet, fueled by Marius Petipa’s unimprovable choreography, works superbly by putting Cervantes’ “Knight of the Woeful Countenance” center stage. The very pictorial result is a lavish and utterly euphoric reimagining of a ballet that repays every revival a hundredfold.

Don Quixote by Petipa,       , Original Choreography - Marius Petipa, Choreography - Carlos Acosta, Music - Minkus, Design - Tim Hatley, The Royal Ballet, 2013, Credit : Johan Persson/Given a score that values every dance opportunity over any plausibility of plot, the windmill-tilting Don Quixote and his clownish sidekick Sancho Panza will always remain ancillary to the comic courtship of Kitri by the foppish Gamache, chosen by her venal innkeeper father Lorenzo. Of course, Kitri’s true love and eventual spouse is the barber Basilio who, unwittingly aided by the dashing toreador Espada and the would-be knight errant (who thinks Kitri is one more damsel in distress), triumphs in the final act’s elaborate wedding spectacle. Happily, Acosta’s remount makes it clear what drives the Don—the ghostly lure of Dulcinea, the lady for whom all his sacrifices make sense and who inspires in the second act an exquisite dance dream: Performed by flawless ballerinas, it’s infused with the grace of classical ballet and easily rivals Giselle and Swan Lake for its inevitable homage to Degas.

Don Quixote by Petipa,       , Original Choreography - Marius Petipa, Choreography - Carlos Acosta, Music - Minkus, Design - Tim Hatley, The Royal Ballet, 2013, Credit : Johan Persson/Cervantes’ famous tale is just an excuse for the classical and folk dances—boleros, processions, waltzes, gallops, fandangos, habaneras, gypsy dances, and stylized bullfights of this inexhaustibly happy score, here perfectly played by the always excellent Chicago Sinfonietta led by Martin Yates. The grateful Auditorium Theatre audience is caught up in a virtual swirl of perpetual motion, lovely tour de forces in all combinations from solo turns to pas de deux to sweeping whirlpools of movement for the entire corps de ballet.

Christopher Saunders, recalling Gustave Dore’s famous etchings of the champion of chivalry, anchors the action as a sober-sided Don Quixote, his gravity a balance to the follies that surround him. An affable Philip Mosley makes the most of Sancho Panza’s sudden promotion from peasant to squire.

Don Quixote

But the heavy lifting, so to speak, is done by the handsome and charismatic director himself. Acosta delivers a smoothly smiling Basilio who makes his turns, leaps and lifts seem like sleepdancing—except for the enthusiasm and energy that galvanize every step. Your heart’s in your throat, watching him soar and smile, leaps of faith as much as legs. Marianela Nunez delivered a Kitri whose lissome levity had more turning points than a telenovela. Her arabesques, pirouettes,  jetés and entrechats were excellently executed, going beyond flawless technique to unsurpassed loveliness. Together they make you forget Fonteyn and Nureyev, Sibley and Dowell. History happens here.

Don Quixote by Petipa,       , Original Choreography - Marius Petipa, Choreography - Carlos Acosta, Music - Minkus, Design - Tim Hatley, The Royal Ballet, 2013, Credit : Johan Persson/Richly detailed comic support came from Bennet Gartside’s dandy fop Gamache and Gary Avis’ obsequious tavern owner. As the glamorous couple of matador and street dancer, the imposing Ryoichi Hirano and charmingly deft Laura Morera could have escaped from Carmen and lost none of their Hibernian fire. Melissa Hamilton as the Dryad Queen (in the dream sequence that follows Don Quixote’s loss of consciousness from an errant windmill) was elegance in action and, as Love herself, Meaghan Grace Hinkis rose to that marvelous occasion. The huge, young ensemble seems to have been directly recruited from London’s most beautiful people (and that’s meant aesthetically, not socially). Not to be left out, the huge puppet creation that depicts the ancient nag Rocinante, Don Quixote’s faithful steed, had all the animated magic of the title creature in Warhorse.

Don Quixote by Petipa,       , Original Choreography - Marius Petipa, Choreography - Carlos Acosta, Music - Minkus, Design - Tim Hatley, The Royal Ballet, 2013, Credit : Johan Persson/

Finally, it’s impossible to imagine more vibrant illustrations for a classic comedy than Tim Hatley’s perfect scenery, a symphony of artistic allusions. His very movable village square is vintage Spain a la Goya, the enchanted forest a Rousseau-like thicket, and the wayside inn a Piranesi-like masterwork filled with props that could pass for still lives by Zurbaran.

Lights down to curtain down, you can’t match Don Quixote for pure pleasure. If dance is a drug, balletomanes could easily overdose before Sunday’s finale. But what a way to go.

Don Quixote

photos by ROH / Johan Persson, 2013

Don Quixote
The Royal Ballet
Auditorium Theatre, 50 E Congress Pkwy
scheduled to end on June 21, 2015
for tickets, call 800.982.2787 or visit www.AuditoriumTheatre.org

for more info on Chicago Theater, visit www.TheatreinChicago.com

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Jazmina Baukys June 21, 2015 at 4:55 pm

The ballet was way beyond sublime. Spirited and good natured. Devastatingly
beautiful and technically complete. A dream come true.

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