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Tulsa Ballet

'Don Quixote'

by Gretchen Collins

September 19, 2008 -- Tulsa

Don Quixote himself would have approved of Tulsa Ballet’s version of his story as choreographed and staged by Anna-Marie Holmes. Even in his dreams, Quixote could not have come up with the magical garden in Act II or the sumptuous sets by Thomas Boyd.

But it was the dancers of Tulsa Ballet who brought it to life. Back from a triumphant performance at Ballet Expo in Seoul, the company was in top form. Five companies were featured at the expo. Marcello Angelini, artistic director with TB said, “The reaction of the audience to our works was tremendous.” The company was so popular “groupies” followed them from venue to venue.

“Don Quixote” is one of the most often interpreted stories in the world. And, after the Bible, the most translated book. Miguel de Cervantes’ tale of illusions, love and deception has been a hit musical, “Man of La Mancha,” and more recently, BBC TV cast Colin Firth as the indomitable dreamer, ranting against the Windmill Bus Company.

Sarkis Kaltakchian eccentrically played the chivalrous adventurer in Friday night’s performance with Alberto Montesso as his squire Sancho Panza. They set off in search of Dulcinea, a character Quixote had read about. Thanks to his unrestrained hallucinations, he believed her to be a real person in peril. The plan was to rescue her and set her free.

Meanwhile in Barcelona, the young Kitri, portrayed by principal dancer Karina Gonzalez, was in love with the handsome Basilio, played by principal Alfonso Martín. Like so many families, dad was interfering. Lorenzo (Daniel McGeehan) was an innkeeper who wanted more for his daughter. Basilio was a lowly barber, and even the offer of a free shave and blow dry didn’t change her father’s mind. It was his intent that she marry Gamache, a rich nobleman. Ricardo Graziano, demi-soloist, played the flamboyant Gamache, although you couldn’t prove it by me. Graziano was enshrouded in one of Judanna Lynn’s costumes beneath colorful flowing fabrics and an ebullient feathered hat with a life of its own. Graziano took advantage of every dandy moment including being knocked over by the wave of a handkerchief.

There was a lovely pas de deux with principal Ma Cong (Espada) and first soloist Alexandra Bergman (Mercedes) in Act I. It was tantalizingly Spanish with Bergman concealing demure shyness with a fan. She and Cong twirled and flirted around capes and village folk. The audience was appreciative.

When the lovers returned, Basilio dismissed the ever present Gamache with a head-slap and proceeded to romance Kitri off her feet literally. In this pas de deux, Martín’s shadowing of Gonzalez was precise, his lifts high, her pointe work was sharp while her arms remained supple and expressive. Their fish dive was elegant and unhurried.

The use of fans, castanets and tambourines added flair. The corps danced up a storm to Ludwig Minkus’ music.

In Act II, the puppet show dragged a bit until Quixote’s delusions (there must have been a Prozac shortage in the early 1600s) kicked back in and he attacked the windmill.  But Quixote’s next dream was a beaut. In the garden he found his Dulcinea and we witnessed the loveliest scene in the ballet. It was quite a departure after all the sword waving and male posturing. This scene was sugar, spice and all feminine. Soloist Ashley Blade-Martín danced the role of the Queen of the Dryads. She executed multiple turns with ease and grace. Her pointe work was definitive. This was quite good work by her in a showcase role. Corps member Hanae Seki as Amour seemed to float. Her movements were delicate and silky. Both women performed beautifully creating the magic in the magic garden.

All in all, this was a perfect scene. The artists of Tulsa Ballet II added dimension to it. Lines were precisely maintained and difficult postures held motionless. There’s obviously much talent coming up the ranks. At the end of the scene, Julie Duro’s lighting played a sleight of hand as white-clad dancers disappeared one layer at a time. This was an artistically crafted effect. Very nice.

In the tavern scene, Cong got to show off some of his stuff. The former Chinese folk dancer is rumored to have springs in his feet, but the choreography didn’t call for the staggering leaps he’s capable of and audiences love. Still, he was applauded for his considerable efforts.

Gonzalez demonstrated her comedic talents as Kitri’s father insisted she marry Gamache. You could almost hear her yelling, “No, no, I won’t go!” This was followed by Basilio’s faked suicide. Despite “dying” Martín took time to carefully drop his coat on the stage for a clean landing. He always does balletic humor well and this was no exception.

Bergman and demi-soloist Rupert Edwards III lead the Fandango in militaristic style with few arm movements. Restraining dancers is like reining in a race horse. There is this explosive quality lying just below the surface.

Martín and Gonzalez danced the wedding pas de deux with passion and energy. Martín’s lifts were high and confident. Gonzalez held several arabesques en pointe without support. She beamed as the two completed a final fish dive with her hands sweeping in a flourish. Both solos were strong. Martín’s included stage-covering turns and huge leaps. Gonzalez garnered audience approval by executing fouettés by the dozens.

The first half of “Don Quixote” was either deceptively simple or the talent of the company exceeded the choreographer’s vision. However, the last half seemed far more challenging and the dancers really stepped up, so to speak. In the end, the sets from Houston Ballet and the costumes of  Lynn transported us all to an earlier Spanish culture including village life, musty taverns and dreams. We had as much fun as Quixote did.

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