Monday, November 7, 2016


Sheila and OreoBy Sheila Abrams

The effort that went into creating the state-of-the-art Sitnik Theater at the Lackland Center on the Hackettstown campus of Centenary College paId off handsomely this past weekend. The Livingston-based New Jersey Ballet Company made its annual autumn visit and took full advantage of the theater’s superb facilities to offer an elaborate full-length version of Don Quixote.

With a substantial cast of 20-plus dancers, gorgeously costumed, the company used elaborate scenery and lighting to tell the legendary story of the would-be knight of La Mancha, an idealist who tries to restore nobility and honor to a vulgar world.

Don Q JetteDon Quixote (or Don Quijote in the original Spanish) was written by Miguel de Cervantes in the early 17th century and is regarded as one of the great literary masterpieces. Some consider it the first modern novel and a new and highly-praised translation was published in 2003. It runs about a thousand pages and people still read it.

The ballet version is something of a variation on the book. Choreographed by Marius Petipa in Russia in the mid-19th century, to a score mostly by Ludwig Minkus, it was redone in 1900 by Alexander Gorsky for the Bolshoi Theater and has been performed ever since, even through the Soviet period.

Modern choreographers have created later versions of Don Quixote but the version performed by New Jersey Ballet was the Petipa/Gorsky ballet, staged by company member Albert Davydov. Davydov also danced the role of Basilio, essentially the male romantic lead.

donq_njb12_a3_42Central to the production and majestic in the title role was Paul Hilliard McCrae. The Don is a character role but, as he moved around the stage, it was evident that McRae still dances like a dream and we were sorry that he didn’t get a chance to do more. (Left: Kitri and Basilio)

Andrew Notarile was also wonderful in the character role of Sancho Panza, Don Quixote’s loyal but less-than-noble squire, and frequently stealing the scene was Leonid Flegmatov, hilarious as the clumsy but rich nobleman, Gamache, an unwanted suitor to the innkeeper’s beautiful daughter, Kitri.

Kitri, danced by Risa Mochizuki (top right), was gorgeous in her fouette turns, and as charming with her facial expressions and gestures as her dancing. Why Petipa, or whoever wrote the story of the ballet, changed so much of Cervantes’ story is a mystery but it seems to work.

Other standout performances were Ilse Kapteyn as the street dancer, Albina Ghazaryan as the gypsy dancer. Humberto Teixeira as Kitri’s father and Gabriella Noa and Iori Araya as Kitri’s friends.

The sets were spectacular. The costumes, by Paul McRae, were exquisite. The company, principals and members of the corps, looked sharp and precise and were a treat to watch.

Photos VAM productions