San Francisco Ballet

'Don Quixote'

by Art Priromprintr

October 7, 2003 -- Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Los Angeles

Doing “Don Quixote” well requires a really big sense of humor and heaps of great dancing. In ballet form "Don Q" has always been a silly affair. The plot, only slightly inspired by a portion of Miguel de Cervantes’ book of the same name, is pretty corny and pointless. So, a ballet company has to really shine through with really entertaining performances to make up for that deficiency.

Fortunately, San Francisco Ballet had both – though at times in somewhat uneven amounts – in its opening night performance of “Don Quixote” at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion on Tuesday.

That it lived up to the challenge of making an evening of fun and entertaining ballet was   helped in no small part by Lorena Feijoo and Joan Boada’s absolutely fantastic performances as Kitri and Basilio. The stage seemed to brighten every time they were on stage, and when they left, one longed for them to return. Both were outstanding in the technical sense – Boada’s huge jumps and Feijoo’s rock-solid balances on pointe defy physics; Feijoo’s fouettés in Act 3 were astounding – but what really made them great was that they were charming and funny as performers as well. Feijoo was hilarious with her antics in the opening scene; and Boada gave it right back to her. Boada feigning death in the Act 2 tavern scene was priceless.

Their youthful spirits make them seem like the characters they are portraying – young lovers having a great time being in love and being young. And they also physically looked like young lovers, something that doesn’t happen all too often when some of the big Russian companies perform “Don Q.” Many of the older ballerinas and male dancers just don’t look like young bouncy lovers. Boada and Feijoo fit the roles perfectly and it adds a lot to their performances.

Of course, one cannot talk about these two dancers without mentioning their stellar dancing, which I’ve only mentioned briefly thus far. From Feijoo’s entrance, with effortless jumps followed by an equally effortless high kick, straight through to the Grand Pas de Deux at the end, the pair never failed to impress the audience with their technical ease and confidence. With appealing characterization layered on top of such fine dancing, Feijoo and Boada made a truly great pair.

Among the corps, there was some great dancing all around. The group Spanish dances were really sharp and everyone hit the poses really strongly with a certain sense of conviction. The “crowd” work in the market place scene took a little bit of time to warm up, however, as it looked a bit stilted when the curtain first rose. There was also a bit too much fussing – as opposed to stage flow – with some of the stage mechanics, such as when the group was trying to throw Sancho on the cloth. In general, however, once the company warmed up, it was smooth sailing from there on outwards. The aforementioned group dances were truly a joy to watch, and that usually isn’t the case.

In the soloist roles, Vanessa Zahorian and Mayo Sugano were delightful as Kitri’s friends. Zahorian in particular has an easy style with strong technique, and it came out particularly in the Act 3 variations. Sarah Van Patten was enjoyable as Mercedes in the Act 2 tavern scene with her impressively flexible back.

In a thoroughly entertaining evening, however, there was one major letdown – and that was the Act 2 dream sequence. It is supposed to involve lots of glittery dancing, glittery costumes:   with glittery costumes – in both the literal and figurative sense. But here, the set seemed underwhelming, the costumes were more muted than sparkly, and the soloist variations – Feijoo’s aside – were off on Tuesday night. Muriel Maffre was the Queen of the Driads, and was clearly not at the top of her form on Tuesday, slightly flubbing the last bit of her variation. Feijoo’s variation was the scene’s only saving grace. Just like the rest of the performance, it was fantastic with her jumps that landed as rock-solid balances – which she held for a breathtaking second or two before moving on and repeating exactly the same thing.

Tomasson and Possokhov’s production does well with some of its additions, such as a new pas de deux in Act 2 for Kitri and Basilio. The pas de deux was well choreographed and at the same time, bolstered a plot point. The audience sees that the two are actually, seriously in love instead being involved in what appears to be mere infatuation that the ballet’s normal scheme generally tends to imply. The choreography here is really appealing, if seeming a little bit more melancholic than “Don Q” normally is, and the music is really great, also.

The new finale is a wonderful addition, replacing the odd ending in minor key that usually closes the ballet. It’s much for fitting for a comic ballet – it always seemed odd that after such a joyous Grand Pas de Deux, the curtain comes down in an oddly minor key. The new finale, which uses music by Delibes, is bouncy and involves some more flashy dancing for the whole company as the curtain comes down.

Andrew Mogrelia conducted the orchestra, and did a respectable job considering the hack job that is the score for this production:   this production, in addition to the regular Minkus music, uses random material from his other works (“Paquita” is thrown in there somewhere), as well as music from other composers. Not to mention that the curtain comes down on Delibes.

I look forward to seeing the company – and hearing the orchestra – later this week in the contemporary programs, and I’ll definitely be going to see the remaining casting combinations for “Don Q” the rest of this week.


Edited by Jeff.

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