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Kirov Ballet - 'Don Quixote'

Light hearted love

by Catherine Pawlick

October 10, 2004 -- Mariinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg

As most balletomanes are aware, American ballet companies schedule their performances differently than the Russians do, using a block system of performances -- one month's worth of "Giselle", for example, followed by a week or two of a mixed program. In Russia that's not the case. The entire repertoire of the company is performed each season. The Mariinsky's October playbill serves as an example of this. Before the month is over, "Swan Lake", "Giselle", the Forsythe mixed program, "Manon", "La Sylphide", the all-Fokine program, and the "Fountain of Bachchisarai" will all be performed here. Tonight, however, was "Don Quixote", the four-act comedic ballet based on Cervantes' play, first performed here in 1869.

The Kirov's version opens on to a very colorful town square, the Spanish villagers cavorting about. Tonight's cast featured Farukh Ruzimatov in a rare appearance on this stage as Basil, alongside Ekaterina Osmolkina as Kitri. In the land where both sexes flirt mercilessly with each other and jealousy goes hand-in-hand with love, Ruzimatov and Osmolkina led believable renditions of the century-old Spanish characters, even, reliable, and solid.

If Ruzimatov is no longer the same electric feline he was in so many "Le Corsaire" performances in San Francisco 14 years ago, the 40-something principal dancer still retains the fire and technique that brought him fast fame. He managed one of the two single-handed overhead lifts in Act One; his retiré passés remain over-crossed someplace between knee and hip, and his emotive talent comes through effortlessly. He drew laughs for his "suicide scene", and seems made for roles that require some characterization, in this case sleek and seductive or jealous or brooding or plotting -- or just dancing with flair, a sultry Spanish barber in love. His technique for the most part remains as it was: Indeed he was brought onstage for a second bow following the coda section of his variation during the Wedding scene.

Ruzimatov's Basil was your typical Spanish flirt, his attention turned to nearby ladies from time to time; but, when it came down to it he was ever-faithful to his Kitri, danced smoothly by the bare-legged but pointe shoe-shod Ekaterina Osmolkina. Osmolkina sports 190 degree turnout and beautifully arched feet, with extensions, especially devante, that seem to gravitate towards the ceiling. She is a compact dancer, light in step and in demeanor. Her Kitri was not as sassy or cunning as some -- rather she seemed sure of Basil's affection, cool and self-confident, playing with him only as the music or choreography demanded.

Other highlights of the evening appeared during the second act. Alexander Efremov fulfilled the role of the head of the gypsy camp with vigor and, along with Polina Rassadina and Islam Baimuradov, provided some entertaining, earthily ethnic dancing. The production featured two live animals as well: the white horse on which Don Quixote rode, and the grey donkey, presumably belonging to his sidekick. The title role of the dreamer was mimed effectively by Vladimir Ponamarev, and Vladimir Ivantsov was the jolliest of Sancho Pansas.

In the dream sequence, the Queen of the Dryads was danced by the lovely Ekaterina Kondayurova, gracious, smooth and noble, her Italian fouettes solid despite her somewhat nervous appearance. The charming, petite and wide-smiled Evgenia Obratsova danced the role of Amour, leggy, lean and perky.

During the final act, Osmolkina finished 32 perfect fouetteés, pulling into a triple pirouette -- as conductor Algirdas Paulavichoos paused to accommodate her timing -- and finishing spot on. She and Ruzimatov hit simultaneous attitude balances just before the conclusion of the pas de deux, emphasizing their mutual musicality. It is no wonder that the Kirov has the resources to provide a one-night spectacle on the scale of "Don Quixote" but it is amazing that the production remains fresh, energized and pleasing to watch.

Edited by Jeff.

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