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Royal Danish Ballet

'Don Quixote'

by Kate Snedeker

March 31, 2008 -- Copenhagen

Sometimes it's amazing how different two performances of the same ballet can be - even when the casts are almost identical. Last Wednesday, Diana Cuni and Tim Matiakis led a spirited cast in "Don Quixote", but the performance never really sparked. Tonight, due to a much more lively audience and a host of inspired performances, the Royal Danish Ballet presented a sensational evening of dance.

Tim Matiakis and Diani Cuni, in the title roles, have clearly been working hard over the last few days, because the wobbles and shakes of last week were gone. It's still obvious that Cuni is not comfortable with long balances, but tonight she was able to balance a little in each section, and without overly long preparations. The wobbly lifts of last week were also replaced with lifts that if not radiating complete confidence, were sure and solid. Matiakis, too, upped his performance a notch, the double turns in his solo looking better rotated and more cleanly landed. Among the high notes in his performances were a couple of gorgeous delayed (hitch) split jumps. But what was most obvious was the increased intensity and the bouyant response of the audience.

Mads Blangstrup may have been ever so slightly off his peak last week, but tonight he was nothing less than sensational. His Espada is intense, cocky and a bit mysterious; a toreador who's gotten his way with the bulls and the women and knows it. In both his Act 1 and Act 3 solos, Blangstrup danced as if every fibre in his body was coursing with electricity; eyes flashing, not a foot out of place. His performance was matched by that of Amy Watson, an equal in intensity of dance and mastery of the flashing glance over the shoulder.

Blangstrup also was able to insert a little dry humour - in the chaos when the villagers are trying to prevent Kitri from being married to Gamache, Lorenzo (her father) grabs what he thinks is his daughters hand, placing it on that of Gamache.  At this point, both men are in too much in a rush to have the wedding ceremony get started to look at the "bride".  In fact, the hand belongs not to Kitri, but to Espada, and in the few seconds before Gamache realises the mix-up, Blangstrup glances over at the audience and with perfect comic timing lifts his eyebrows with a slight shrug of the shoulders as if to say "I'm not sure what's going to happen, but what the heck".

Speaking of mime, the performance of Flemming Ryberg as Gamache turns what could be a one-joke character into something that has a bit more depth.

In the only major cast changes, Gudrun Bojesen was a delicate Queen of the Dryads, with Rebecca Labbé an enchanting Amor. Labbé is one to watch in the corps - a tiny, blond bundle of power. Her technique still needs some polishing, but she dances with a 1000-watt smile and special spark. Cuni was gorgeous in this act - Mogens Boesen partners her with elegance despite a huge difference in height. In addition, the long, gauzy tutu floats around her with a slight delay so that it adds softness to the movement.

The corps earned their applause, though there were a few loose moments, especially amongst the Act 2 Dryads.

The least flattering of the costumes - other than Espada's Act III black nightmare - is that of Amor. It's best described as a flesh-colored mini-toga with a pair of sylph wings tacked on the back. One of the prettiest costumes is Graciosa's multi-coloured dress. The nearly floor length, round cut skirt of the dress is made of brightly coloured vertical panels in light, silky material. Thus, when she does her sequence of turns in Act 2, the dress swirls around her, opening up so that full rainbow of colours is visible. It's a beautiful effect.

I also noticed tonight for the first time, the striking moment when the Don appears to rise from his own sleeping body. After the windmill sequence, the Don is escorted back onstage to sleep off his adventures. This Don is a double, and the real Don hides next to him, and illuminated in ghostly green light, rises up from behind. Tonight Mogen Boesen did it with perfect timing, so the effect was a bit spine tingling.

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