Beautiful stage pictures and flawless dancing highlight Joffrey Ballet Chicago’s traditional Don Quixote
Entering the Auditorium Theatre, we see a projected image of an ancient woodcut surrounded by Latin words printed in old English overlayed with the familiar silhouette of a lanky man accompanied by a very short man, undeniably Don Quixote and Sancho Panza.
The opening image is just the first instance of the use of multimedia, including projections of etchings and blade-turning windmills, and a vivid thunderstorm, that enhance this very traditional ballet. Set and lighting design by Jack Mehler and animated projections by Wendall Harrington are part of the evening’s highlights.
In the opening scene establishing Don Quixote, we see projections of his visions fly past. Very creative. Fabrice Calmels cuts a striking figure in the title role. His height sets him apart from the rest of the ensemble, especially his squire, Sancho Panza.
Unfortunately, the title character is relegated to being a spectator in this version. Granted, Don Quixote is typically a character role somewhere between Dr. Coppelius and Rothbart, often played by a senior member of the company (George Balanchine played the part in the New York City Ballet production), but if you are casting one of the Joffrey’s leading dancers in the part, might he be given something more than a pas de bourre to execute? Calmels must be content with the exaggerated gestures and mime established in the 19th century, hindering our ability to have much sympathy for the character.
Likewise, Sancho Panza, energetically portrayed by Derrick Agnoletti, languishes in the 19th century when buffoonery and pratfalls were considered cute and funny, but now seem a little ho-hum.
This ballet is actually about the love affair of Kitri, who is also the embodiment of Quixote’s dream Dulcinea, and Basilio, the local barber. Kitri is beautifully danced by Victoria Jaiani. She is always sparkling and exuding the joy of dancing. Basilio is wonderfully performed by guest artist Carlos Quenedit, who displays technical prowess, fine acting ability, and physical strength. (He impressively holds Jaiaini over his heard with one hand while she takes her time executing a develope a la seconde.)
Joffrey ballet master Willy Shives plays Kitri’s father, Lorenzo the innkeeper, who is bent on keeping the lovers apart. Shives performs with his usual precision and enthusiasm.
A subplot involves Temur Suluashvili as Espada, a famous toreador, and Alexis Polito, as a street dancer. Suluashvili is most convincing in his opening dances with the toreadors, who execute a flashy cape dance with great penache. Polito performed with sultry assurance, and her second act dress was amazing, thanks to costumer Travis Halsey, whose costumes throughout helped to make the visuals beautiful.
In general, the corps de ballet showed a well rehearsed precision. Ballet masters Nicolas Blanc and Graca Sales are to be congratulated.
Yumellia Garcia was great fun as the spritely Amore, complete with bow and arrow. So perfectly quick to dart and prance, she is hard to imagine as the Kitri in alternate performances. Her scene as Amore is part of Quixote’s vision of Dulcinea, which takes place in a forest where the obligatory dance for the female corps de ballet performs the swan/willie/this time dryad dance in long white romantic tutus. But the patterns are nice and the corps danced well.
Rocinante, Don Quixote’s faithful horse makes a few appearances. Designed by Vonorthal Puppets, the horse made an appealing addition to the mighty band of three. Horses are quite in vogue onstage these days, what with the War Horse puppets a big hit on Broadway. Did he do a pas de cheval?
Other minor characters included Gimache, an affected fop with a costume that would be admired by Lady Gaga. Matthew Adamczyk played this part well, providing the humor for the evening. His capers were a riot. Amber Neumann stood out as one of Kitri’s friends.
Yes, the Joffrey Ballet Chicago is presenting a classical ballet, basically Marius Petipa’s original choreography. From that viewpoint, the production is beautifully crafted by choreographer Yuri Possokhov. There is some thought that with the announcement of a world premiere and a reworking of the ballet, the updating, in addition to the multimedia used in the setting, might also involve more real adventure for the title character and involvement for Mr Calmels’ talents.
Photos by Herbert Migdoll
All performances take place at The Auditorium Theatre
50 East Congress Parkway
Chicago, IL 60605
Thru Sunday, Oct 23, 2011
Thursdays and Fridays at 7:30 pm
Saturdays and Sundays at 2:00 pm and 7:30 pm except Oct 23 (2 pm only)
Fri Oct 14, 2011 - 7:30pm
Sat Oct 15, 2011 - 2:00pm
Sat Oct 15, 2011 - 7:30pm
Sun Oct 16, 2011 - 2:00pm
Thu Oct 20, 2011 - 7:30pm
Fri Oct 21, 2011 - 7:30pm
Sat Oct 22, 2011 - 2:00pm
Sat Oct 22, 2011 - 7:30pm
Sun Oct 23, 2011 - 2:00pm
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