By Sheila Abrams
On Nov. 19, New Jersey Ballet premiered a full evening-length production of Don Quixote at the Mayo Center in Morristown, kicking off the 2011-2012 season with a lot of flash. The ballet is a traditional work from mid-19th century Russia, originally choreographed by the legendary Marius Petipa to a score by Ludwig Minkus.
The New Jersey Ballet version has been staged by Albert Davydov, a member of the company, based on a 1900 version. Davydov is a high flyer and an audience-pleaser, who danced the key and energetic role of Basilio at the premiere.
Make no mistake: New Jersey Ballet’s Don Quixote is classical, traditional ballet. Though it is broken into three acts (Petipa’s original was five), Davydov has remained true to Petipa’s vision. For the lover of bravura dancing—extended series of fouette turns by a serenely smiling ballerina , high leaps and turns and seemingly impossible lifts—this is a feast for the eyes. New Jersey Ballet has some very competent dancers.
If, however, you are craving something newer, something perhaps edgier or more original, you will have to look elsewhere in this company’s repertoire. It is there to be found. Their Latin Beat 2 program, which they did recently at Centenary College, is a case in point.
The story of Don Quixote is based on an incident in Cervantes’ great novel, not one of the best known. Don Quixote, the mad old man who believes he is a knight errant, along with his squire, Sancho Panza, provides a framework and some visual comedy—but this ballet is in no way a re-creation of the book.
Don Quixote, incidentally, was portrayed by New Jersey Ballet’s Assistant Artistic Director, Paul McRae, who cannot disguise the elegance of his movement.
The main characters are a pair of young lovers, Kitri and Basilio, who are trying to dodge Kitri’s apparently demented father, Lorenzo. He has decided that his daughter should marry the wealthy and peculiar Gamache. To call him a fop is putting it mildly. Vladimir Roje’s portrayal of Gamache and Humberto Teixeira’s Lorenzo were quite funny, as was Konstantin Kolotov, whose Sancho Panza was a good foil for McRae’s rangy Don.
Of course, in classical tradition, there are lots of divertissements, made possible in the plot by all Kitri’s and Basilio’s friends, helping them avoid Lorenzo and Gamache. Many of these dances project a strong Spanish flavor, the footwork of flamenco and its typical postures beautifully incorporated into the classical dancing.
Matching Davydov’s considerable showmanship, Mari Sugawa gave Kitri an unusual intensity. She is well-centered and has gorgeous lines. Matching her artistry were Kotoe Kojima Noa and Gabriella Noa-Pierson as her friends, who particularly shone in the third act, The Wedding. And we particularly liked the dance of the Toreadors, twirling their capes for the ladies.
Junio Teixeira as Espada and Ana Luiza Luizi as the Street Dancer stood out. Children from New Jersey Ballet’s school were delightful as Cupids in the dream sequence in the second act, as were ladies from the junior company as the Dream Maidens.
Don Quixote is the sixth full-length production to join the New Jersey Ballet repertoire. Its splendid Nutcracker is about to begin its season with performances in Morristown, Englewood and Cape May. Also in the company’s repertoire are full-length productions of Giselle, Esmeralda, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella.