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Moscow Stanislavsky Ballet - 'Don Quixote'

by Cassandra

January 13, 2005 -- Royal Festival Hall, London

This Production of “Don Quixote” is dancing all the way, often at the expense of the narrative. Even the Don himself gets to dance, possibly as a consolation for robbing him of his opening dream of chivalry amongst his musty books. But this version staged by Alexei Tchitchinadze certainly moves at a lick, even if those unfamiliar with the story do start wondering just who the old geezer with the lance is. A couple of the Spanish numbers appear to have gone missing and I was unsure of the merit of the new pas de deux for a romantic gypsy couple danced to the music of the soulful female solo usually seen in the second act.

It’s not easy to make the notoriously unsuitable Royal Festival Hall stage look good for dancing, but the tasteful set created the illusion of more space than there actually is. Of course, the Royal Festival Hall’s stage isn’t wooden, so an amusing change took place at the point (no pun intended) when the matador’s daggers are thrust into the floor for the Street Dancer to weave in and out. Instead of daggers she danced between a row of tankards: not the same thing at all. In the windmill scene Don Q. just gets to tilt (and dance) at the windmills as the sails here do not turn; but as the effect of his being lifted off his feet and then a dummy falling to the ground never usually works, only eliciting laughs, it’s no great loss in my opinion.

With so little drama involved it’s all down to the dancers to impress, and as the audience enthusiastically applauded everyone and everything, they seemed to have been thoroughly impressed. “She’s so light!” I overheard someone say after Act I, she being the Kitri of Natalia Ledovskaya, a fact I won’t dispute at all as her jumps were some of the highest and most effortless I’ve seen in recent years. But her high extensions, perhaps more acceptable here than in other classics, didn’t endear her to me. As Basil, Roman Malenko, played the few mimed passages that are left very well and was an alert and supportive partner, but this role is better suited to a stronger personality.

Of the other roles I actually enjoyed the Gamache of Anton Domashev, a character I usually find tedious. Domashev played him more as a classical dancer with an ego problem and terminal mannerisms and this approach was funnier than most I’ve seen. Also impressive was Sergei Orekhov as Lorenzo, Kitri’s ambitious dad, unable to understand his daughter’s preference for a penniless barber over a rich idiot. The Espada of Dmitri Romanenko however went a bit over the top with his exaggerated Spanishness, strutting his stuff just a little too much.

Taken as a whole it’s not a bad production and despite the cuts here and there stays more or less faithful to the Gorsky choreography and the standard of dancing is pretty high. It’s also a good choice for the Christmas season: a fine antidote to the cold and dark outside.

Edited by Jeff.

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