by Art Priromprintr
October 7, 2003 --
Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Los Angeles
Doing “Don Quixote”
well requires a really big sense of humor and heaps of great dancing.
In ballet form "Don Q" has always been a silly affair. The plot,
only slightly inspired by a portion of Miguel de Cervantes’ book of the
same name, is pretty corny and pointless. So, a ballet company has to
really shine through with really entertaining performances to make up
for that deficiency.
Fortunately, San Francisco Ballet had both – though at times in somewhat
uneven amounts – in its opening night performance of “Don Quixote” at
the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion on Tuesday.
That it lived up to the challenge of making an evening of fun and entertaining
ballet was helped in no small part by Lorena Feijoo and Joan Boada’s
absolutely fantastic performances as Kitri and Basilio. The stage seemed
to brighten every time they were on stage, and when they left, one longed
for them to return. Both were outstanding in the technical sense – Boada’s
huge jumps and Feijoo’s rock-solid balances on pointe defy physics; Feijoo’s
fouettés in Act 3 were astounding – but what really made them great was
that they were charming and funny as performers as well. Feijoo was hilarious
with her antics in the opening scene; and Boada gave it right back to
her. Boada feigning death in the Act 2 tavern scene was priceless.
Their youthful spirits make them seem like the characters they are portraying
– young lovers having a great time being in love and being young. And
they also physically looked like young lovers, something that doesn’t
happen all too often when some of the big Russian companies perform “Don
Q.” Many of the older ballerinas and male dancers just don’t look like
young bouncy lovers. Boada and Feijoo fit the roles perfectly and it adds
a lot to their performances.
Of course, one cannot talk about these two dancers without mentioning
their stellar dancing, which I’ve only mentioned briefly thus far. From
Feijoo’s entrance, with effortless jumps followed by an equally effortless
high kick, straight through to the Grand Pas de Deux at the end, the pair
never failed to impress the audience with their technical ease and confidence.
With appealing characterization layered on top of such fine dancing, Feijoo
and Boada made a truly great pair.
Among the corps, there was some great dancing all around. The group Spanish
dances were really sharp and everyone hit the poses really strongly with
a certain sense of conviction. The “crowd” work in the market place scene
took a little bit of time to warm up, however, as it looked a bit stilted
when the curtain first rose. There was also a bit too much fussing – as
opposed to stage flow – with some of the stage mechanics, such as when
the group was trying to throw Sancho on the cloth. In general, however,
once the company warmed up, it was smooth sailing from there on outwards.
The aforementioned group dances were truly a joy to watch, and that usually
isn’t the case.
In the soloist roles, Vanessa Zahorian and Mayo Sugano were delightful
as Kitri’s friends. Zahorian in particular has an easy style with strong
technique, and it came out particularly in the Act 3 variations. Sarah
Van Patten was enjoyable as Mercedes in the Act 2 tavern scene with her
impressively flexible back.
In a thoroughly entertaining evening, however, there was one major letdown
– and that was the Act 2 dream sequence. It is supposed to involve lots
of glittery dancing, glittery costumes: with glittery costumes
– in both the literal and figurative sense. But here, the set seemed underwhelming,
the costumes were more muted than sparkly, and the soloist variations
– Feijoo’s aside – were off on Tuesday night. Muriel Maffre was the Queen
of the Driads, and was clearly not at the top of her form on Tuesday,
slightly flubbing the last bit of her variation. Feijoo’s variation was
the scene’s only saving grace. Just like the rest of the performance,
it was fantastic with her jumps that landed as rock-solid balances – which
she held for a breathtaking second or two before moving on and repeating
exactly the same thing.
Tomasson and Possokhov’s production does well with some of its additions,
such as a new pas de deux in Act 2 for Kitri and Basilio. The pas de deux
was well choreographed and at the same time, bolstered a plot point. The
audience sees that the two are actually, seriously in love instead being
involved in what appears to be mere infatuation that the ballet’s normal
scheme generally tends to imply. The choreography here is really appealing,
if seeming a little bit more melancholic than “Don Q” normally is, and
the music is really great, also.
The new finale is a wonderful addition, replacing the odd ending in minor
key that usually closes the ballet. It’s much for fitting for a comic
ballet – it always seemed odd that after such a joyous Grand Pas de Deux,
the curtain comes down in an oddly minor key. The new finale, which uses
music by Delibes, is bouncy and involves some more flashy dancing for
the whole company as the curtain comes down.
Andrew Mogrelia conducted the orchestra, and did a respectable job considering
the hack job that is the score for this production: this production,
in addition to the regular Minkus music, uses random material from his
other works (“Paquita” is thrown in there somewhere), as well as music
from other composers. Not to mention that the curtain comes down on Delibes.
I look forward to seeing the company – and hearing the orchestra – later
this week in the contemporary programs, and I’ll definitely be going to
see the remaining casting combinations for “Don Q” the rest of this week.
Edited by Jeff.
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