Ballet Nacional de Cuba Back With a Bang After 15 years
As we await the commencement of tonight’s ballet, we realize it has been 15 years since Ballet Nacional de Cuba has performed in Chicago’s Auditorium Theatre. The anticipation is exhilarating! Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote will be transformed to the stage. The story is of two lovers who are met by challenges to carry out their lives, and how they are saved by the chivalrous nobleman, Don Quixote (Yansiel Pujada).
The opening scene bursts with energy, color and delight! Kitri (Viengsay Valdés) and Basilio (Patricio Revé) the two main lovers at the center of the Don Quixote ballet, immediately have our hearts. Kitri dances with needle-like precision. The first thing we notice is her smile--contagious and chock full of mischief. Each turn en pointe is consistent and never falters. Basilio is a quiet powerhouse. His jumps have endless amounts of airtime followed by whisper-like landings. His boyish charm and also, contagious smile induces slight giddiness.
As the first act continues we remain wowed by all the dancers’ technical ability and discipline. From this dancer’s view however, what most sets this company apart is how invested they are in the story telling. The pantomime scenes are not overly dramatized but sprinkled with moments of Spanish flare. The main bullfighter, Andalusian Espada (Ariel Martínez), wins us over with his sultry confidence. The red cape he dances with is an extension of his arm as he whips, twirls, lassos it around-- as if his body is engulfed by flames.
The Pas De Deux
In Act II, Scene II Don Quixote is knocked off his horse in the unmatched battle with the windmill which in his mind is a giant. The result of this blow sends him into hallucinations of his beloved, Dulcinea. Veiled head to toe, she glides across the stage as Quixote’s eyes are fixed on her, awestruck. Kitri, the lead female role enters and takes her place-- embodying the memory of Dulcinea. Quixote approaches her and takes her into his arms and the precious pas de deux begins.
This rendition of the ballet, directed by Alicia Alonso, gives importance and attention to the character of Don Quixote. His love for Dulcinea, who appears throughout the evening in the same veiled costume is noticeably strong. His intention to help the star-crossed lovers Kitri and Basilio be together makes perfect sense-- Quixote sees his beloved in Kitri.
The Corp de Ballet- Energetic and Elegant
When viewing classical ballets, this writer has been guilty of looking forward to the “main attraction” moments. However we were not given the chance to slink back into our seats. What kept us going was the the corp de ballet energy. Act I begins elegantly. The ensemble works in complete synchronicity with slight comedic and theatrical nuances that are specific to each dancer. The second act with the ensemble of gypsies is wild and frivolous-- a whirlwind of claps, leaps, turns and lifts. The Dream Scene settles down with corp de ballet members outfitted in blue-- reminiscent of calm sea waves. In the final act, the corp de ballet brings us back to the town square and introduces the moment all ballet lovers have been waiting for: the final pas de deux between Kitri and Basilio. The corp de ballet kept us on the edge of our seat until the very end.
Having seen other renditions of Don Quixote, this writer believes that Ballet Nacional de Cuba truly shows a profound and welcomed respect towards the classic story. From the technical excellence to honest theatrics, this authentic production makes The Don Quixote Ballet accessible to all!
There is still one more chance to see the show!
May 20th, 3 PM
50 E. Congress Parkway
Chicago, IL 60605
About the Author
Tuli Bera is a performance artist based in Chicago. She received her BFA from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She currently dances with Project Ishti led by Preeti Veerlapati and Kinnari Vora. Most recently she danced in their new work, "Prakriti" which premiered at the 2017 Chicago Fringe Festival. Bera works as Aerial Dance Chicago's program coordinator and is also the director of J e l l o Performance Series housed by Links Hall and Elastic Arts. This is an artistic platform that provides opportunities for Chicago artists to show their work. For more information about The Series Website.