by Carla DeFord
April 27, 2012 -- Boston Opera House, Boston, MA
One might say that “Don Quixote” rode into Boston on the back of the half-mechanical, half-human “horse” that carried the main character into battle in Act I. Dressed in full military regalia, complete with “bacieyelmo” (basin-helmet), breastplate, and lance, the Don tilted at a windmill and took on other well-known adventures. The true focus of the show, however, was on Kitri, the spitfire señorita, and Basilio, her barber boyfriend, whose course of love ends happily, even if it does not run smooth.
Principal Kathleen Breen Combes’s Kitri was more than competent, with plenty of charm and some beautiful balances, but her entrance was disappointing. It took me several precious seconds to realize she was even on stage. This was due in large part to her costume, which was buff colored with red accents. It did not make her stand out against the backdrop or the rest of the company. In addition to the costume problem, I missed the explosive energy that some dancers, such as Osipova, bring to the first act variations.
In Act II as Dulcinea Breen Combes seemed completely in her element. The vision scene showed off her crystalline technique and great purity of line. Olga Malinovskaya and Lia Cirio were also impressive as Cupid and Queen of the Dryads, respectively, but Breen Combes was first among equals. The sparkling quality of her movement carried over into the wedding scene as well.
Principal James Whiteside was a stunning Basilio. When he stretched himself into full matador position, balanced on his toes, hands over his head, staring straight into the eyes of an imaginary oncoming bull, the moment seemed to capture something of his essence as a classical dancer: noble, elongated, courageous. Consistently astonishing in the air, his off-center leaps in Act I, with knees bent and toes together, left one wondering how Nureyev came up with such an unusual move.
As an actor Whiteside has come so far; he was completely believable as both a comedian and a lover. His reaction to being kicked in the behind by Kitri’s father looked completely natural and spontaneous; Charlie Chaplin couldn’t have done it better. His mock suicide was suitably melodramatic, and his besotted attention to his leading lady the stuff of dreams.
Corps member Isaac Akiba did a terrific turn as the “Gypsy Boy” in Act II. This Russian-inflected solo was extremely demanding, and he brought it off with panache. The first graduate of the Boston Ballet City Dance program to be hired by the company, Akiba is becoming an outstanding dancer.
Boyko Dossev, now a corps member again after having been on hiatus, was adorable as the fop Gamache. I always thought he had the makings of a good comedian, and as Gamache he showed how endearingly funny he can be.
Corps member Keenan Kampa has the distinction of being the first American graduate of the Vaganova Academy in St. Petersburg. I had hoped she would bowl us over as Mercedes, the street dancer, but half the time she seemed worried. She needn’t be; there’s no question that she has the goods. She just needs to “learn the steps and then forget them” as Alessandra Ferri once said. If she can manage to find that “sense of freedom” in movement that Maina Gielgud, who staged this production, says is essential for communication with the audience, she will come into her own. Since she’s so young, time is on her side.
Soloist Whitney Jensen as one of the “Friends of Kitri” was, as usual, extraordinary. Her tremendous confidence, the way she uses her head to comment on and extend her movements, the way she eats up the space around her and consciously engages the audience, all these make her a dancer of the first rank. One Boston reviewer has predicted she will be promoted to principal soon. I can’t wait to see her in leading roles; she’ll be a knock-out.
While not as exciting as the recent Boston Ballet “Romeo and Juliet,” this “Don Quixote” was definitely worth seeing. It brought a bit of sunny Spain to the land of the bean and the cod, where temperatures have been more wintery than May-like of late.