writers on dancing


Once Again: Road Show

"Don Quixote”
The Bolshoi Ballet and Orchestra
Filene Center
Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts
Vienna, Virginia, USA
August 5 & 6, 2005

by George Jackson
copyright ©2005 by George Jackson

The orchestra set the tone for the entire production: brassy, showy. Pulse and crescendo were played up by Pavel Klinichev's conducting, not the melodies nor lilt in Ludwig Minkus's music. Credited for the "after Marius Petipa and Alexander Gorsky" choreography this time, like last, was Alexei Fadeyechev. The effect, though, was different. When Fadeyechev, then director of the Bolshoi Ballet, first set this version of "Don Quixote" in 1999 and Washington saw it at Kennedy Center shortly thereafter, the work had nuance.

As a road show now, this "Don Q" gives the audience value: over two hours worth of dancing—ballet, character and in between—on a stage crammed with colorful costumes (after 1906 designs by Vasily Dyachkov) and pleasant sets (Sergey Barkhin) . The waves of dancing don't build gently to a peak but start at high crest and break only when done. There's also pantomime, and when delivered by Alexander Petukhov, it is very worth watching. As the Sancho Panza—comic sidekick to the pathetic Don—he almost manages to tie together the loose ends of the very "after" Cervantes action.

Some of the audience, having recently seen the revival of George Balanchine's "Don Q", expected the story to turn serious but that, of course, doesn't happen. Fadeyechev focused on the lovers Kitri and Basil and followed the events of Petipa's scenario fairly faithfully, and also the locations: the Don's study, a Barcelona market, the interior of an inn, a gipsy camp equipped with a marionette theater and nearby windmills, a forest clearing and, finally, the great hall of a ducal castle. American audiences are more used to having the inn scene follow the gypsy camp scene and the forest clearing's dream scene. However, just about every company today omits or merges two other places—Dulcinea's garden and the ducal hunting grounds—that Petipa positioned after the forest scene. Restoring part of Petipa's original ending, which would bring the Don significantly back into the action, might benefit all current productions—except in the eyes of those fans who treasure each and every one of ballet history's whimsical ways.

Friday's performance was the one more notable for classical dancing whereas Saturday the ballet's three great women's character solos were even more potent than the first night.

Maria Alexandrova, Friday's Kitri, is no stranger to Washington audiences. This classical dancer had been noticed here during earlier Bolshoi engagements, first as a very promising soloist. On the company's last visit, Alexandrova seemed to have hit a plateau. Technically strong, she appeared to be becoming muscle bound and had even taken a step back in authority. This time, at last, Alexandrova was dancing at ballerina caliber. Broad boned and steady, her balances could defy earthquakes, her turns were as speed controlled as an electric blender's and as for leaps, they wouldn't have been much larger if she started them on a diving board. Best of all, Alexandrova now enjoys her own dancing and seems to have found the right model—the heroic sculptural one that Marina Semyonova exemplified during the Stalin years.

Also impressive in the classical category were the two young women soloists, the "bridesmaids" whose variations decorate the ballet's final pas de deux for Kitri and Basil; the cast names in the program for them on both days were Natalia Osipova, the joyous first one, and Nelli Kobakhidze, the elegant second, but it was Friday that they wore their dancing lightly, like hints of perfume. The female corps de ballet and Nina Kaptsova as Cupid did themselves proud both times in the dream scene; Anastasia Yatsenko's Street Dancer and Maria Allash's Dryad Queen were performed decently .

Saturday's Kitri, the young Ekatarina Shipulina, is more flexible than Alexandrova, but not yet with absolute control so that it becomes too much sometimes.

Two of the three great character solos were in the inn: the first being by a proud woman in white with castanets (probably Kristina Karaseva, both nights) and the second by a flamboyant woman in red (probably Irina Zibrova on Friday, Evgenia Rozovskaya on Saturday). Then, in the next scene, there was the gypsy dance (Anna Antropova, both nights). These solos were added to "Don Quixote" in the early 20th Century by choreographers Kasyan Gole(i)zovsky, Rostislav Zakharov and Anatoly Simachov to music that wasn't Minkus's. On Saturday, the intensity of these cameos was incredible and met both the demand for showoff and that for moodplay.

The leading men were staunch partners and adequate soloists. Especially Friday's Basil, the slightly pudgy Jury Klevtsov, gave Alexandrova solid support; Saturday's Vladimir Neporozhny coped with the lighter Shipulina despite his spindly legs. Timofey Lavrenyuk, a poster Toreador, seemed short of breath on Saturday.

The Bolshoi ought to invite Alexei Fadeyechev back to refresh "Don Quixote" because it should be more than a road show of separate hit numbers. A strong director can blend the virtuosity, romance, sense of the ridiculous and exoticism of this operetta of a ballet into a coherent adventure. A few people thought Alexei Fadeyechev was back and had appeared as the Duke, a small walking role. If the printed program is correct, that was another, a younger dancer—Alexander Fedeechev, who is a regular member of the Bolshoi's corps de ballet. For unabashed showoff in "Don Quixote" no one has yet matched the newsmaking Anastasia Volochkova. During her days of favor at the Bolshoi, Volochkova did Kitri's fouette turns while simultaneously twirling her fan into the air and catching it again.

Volume 3, No. 31
August 15, 2005

copyright ©2005 George Jackson



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last updated on August 15, 2005