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Don Quixote At ABT

It’s been said time and time again, “Don Quixote has nothing to do with Don Quixote.” Nothing much to do with anything, really, except as an excuse for virtuosic ballet. 

Kevin McKenzie’s production looks worn out and wan, not because of Santo Loquasto’s sets and costumes, but for the dreary timing of most of the choreography which mitigates against any energy build-up or climax. I suppose it’s hard to make a war horse like Don Q look fresh, but Nureyev did it back in the 70’s when he brought it to the City Center with the Australian Ballet (Lucette Aldous was the ballerina) and turned it into a zarzuela. But ABT’s show, led by Natalia Osipova and Ivan Vasiliev as Kitri and her suitor Basilio, certainly had more than its quota of technical pyrotechnics.

The orchestra couldn’t hold itself together for an important tempo change. (Osipova took her diagonal of single en dehors turns blazingly fast.) They must have been scolded during the intermission because they were fairly impeccable during the second and third acts.

As Mercedes, Simone Messmer faded into the ensemble in the first act but came to life in the second. Her matador partner, Alexandre Hammoutdi danced with wit and verve in the first act but was void in the second. And he sure knew how to swing a cape. They finally got in sync with each other in the third act when they were merely null.

Yuriko Kajiya, who was so good in Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes, danced a wonderful Amor with brio, charm, and the fastest pas de bourée couru I’ve ever seen. Misty Copeland (Queen of the Dryads) danced strongly but has no jump––a real pity in this context because she follows a diagonal of grands jetés by Osipova (who must have the largest and lightest jump of any ballerina dancing today) with a series of her own. A real anticlimax.

Osipova herself was brilliant (an adjective too often used but here truly earned). She takes real risks that always pay off. Aside from her jump she’s got gorgeous pirouettes and the most beautiful fouettés in the business (in the third act pas de deux’s coda she did 16 counts of doubles and then 16 more counts of single-single-doubles). Vasiliev partnered her with his own brand of virtuosity––not as refined as Osipova’s but terrifically exciting. They really know how to tear up the stage and eat up space with their jumps, balances, and turns.

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