Comedic ballets aren’t that funny. They’re fun to watch and the audience gives up some stuffy laughter, but that’s about it. Don Quixote is a different story.
The Joffrey Ballet opened their run of the tragicomedy Don Quixote on Wednesday at Auditorium Theatre. I had seen the show performed by Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre when I was a tween, but don’t remember much. Last night’s performance was a great refresher.
In this version of the famed tale (choreographed by Yuri Possokhov), the world’s most overzealous wannabe knight, Don Quixote, travels with his equally ridiculous squire Sancho Panza looking for adventures—which always turns into trouble. Don Quixote (Fabrice Calmels) and Sancho (Derek Agnoletti) find themselves mixed up in a messy love story involving the beautiful innkeeper’s daughter Kitri (Victoria Jaiani) and her lover, the town barber, Basilio (guest artist Carlos Quenedit).
Fabrice made for a great Don Quixote because he towers over everyone and is very expressive, but it’s not a dancing part, which was disappointing. We didn’t get to see him dance like we did Carlos Quenedit, but audiences will get to see Fabrice as Espada, famous toreador and partner of street dancer Mercedes. Basically the Spaniard in the flashy gold outfit. Espada was played by Temur Suluashvili on Wednesday night, alongside a standout performance Alexis Polito, who played Mercedes.
Joffrey had some great special effects, especially during my two favorite scenes. During the classic windmill scene, Don Quixote thinks the windmills he and Sancho come across are evil monsters and he must slay them. A screen that filled the stage top to bottom with windmills turning into monsters, and as Don Quixote charged the “monster,” it threw him flying through the air in slow motion. Pretty cool stuff.
There was more flying through the air during The Vision, the scene where Don Quixote dreams up the world of Dryads, where Amore (Yumelia Garcia), the Queen of the Dryads (Christine Rocas), and Kitri (Jaiani) lead him through a fantasy world and enchant him. Among the Spanish dance and flashy tavern scenes, this was a little piece of classical heaven.
I laughed, I laughed some more, and I almost cried during Jaiani’s never-ending finale fouettes. Seriously, I always lose count. Verdict: Joffrey conquered this one. But now I can’t wait for The Nutcracker!
***Don Quixote Master Class: Joffrey is hosting a Don Quixote-themed Master Class open to all levels next Monday, October 17. I’m so sad I’m going to miss this, it sounds so fun! There will be a barre warm-up to the Don Quixote score, plus excerpts of choreography from the variation of Kitri. Class is $15 ($10 for students) and will be held at the Joffrey Tower 5:30 to 7 p.m. For reservations call (312) 784-4800.