Upon entering the Regal cinemas on a Sunday afternoon in Manhattan, one is immediately struck with an overwhelming feeling of anticipation - the audience, primarily older Russians, begins clapping as the clock ticks closer to the start of Bolshoi Ballet: Don Quixote.
We enter the world of the Bolshoi Ballet with a backstage view of the dancers warming up before the performance, in various stages of costume. As if we were seated at the illustrious Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, we watch the orchestra enter, take their seats and wait for the conductor to give them the cue to start. With the very first notes of Ludwig Minkus’ jubilant score, we can sense that we are in for quite a show.
The story of the quintessential dreamer, Don Quixote, embarking on a journey hoping to fulfill his romantic notions of chivalry is the theme of this classical ballet staple that has been in the Bolshoi’s repertoire since 1869. As part of its 5th annual Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Series with Fathom Events, Pathé Live and BY Experience, the renowned company's performance of Don Quixote was streamed in theaters across the U.S. on December 2. Not only were we treated to spectacular dancing, but also to two backstage interviews, one of which was with choreographer Alexei Fadeyechev.
In the prologue, we meet Don Quixote (played here by Alexei Loparevich, with gusto and old world charm) and his sidekick Sancho Panza (a wonderfully clownish Roman Simachev). As Don Quixote prepares to embark on this dreams of achieving glory, we have a strong impression that Don’s adventure will be energetic, exciting and funny.
The energy in the first act is intoxicating as we are transported to a Spanish seaside village square. A sea of fans, flowing skirts, and street dancers assault our senses. Here we meet the ballet’s main attraction, our lovers Kitri and Basilio, played by Ekaterina Krysanova and Semyon Chudin, respectively. Aside from her impressive extensions, lightning fast turns and beautiful lines, Krysanova endows Kitri with the necessary spunk and joi de vivre to make us want to watch her for the next two and a half hours. Chudin’s Basilio is a great match for her and more than holds his own; he has the necessary machismo, evidenced by his impressive one-handed lifts of Kitri.
As Don Quixote and Sancho continue on their travels, they are met by a colorful cast of characters including flamenco dancers complete with castinets and Spanish-inspired footwork, toreadors with puffed out chests, exotic gypsies and dryads.
In this writer’s view, Don Quixote’s dream sequence at the end of the second act is the most engaging of all the sequences. We are able to take a breather from the high octane almost acrobatic dancing and come back to a style that is more in line with classical ballet. Reminiscent of an enchanted forest, with the corps de ballet dressed entirely in white, exhibiting arm and leg movements with precise uniformity, Kitri, the queen of the dryads (an effortless Olga Smirnova) and Cupid (an endearing Daria Khokhlova) each perform solos highlighting their extreme flexibility, strength and grace.
The third act shows off the extraordinary dancing skills of Kitri and Basilio - and show off they do! The audience roars as Krysanova completes her thirty-two fouettes and Chudin leaps in the air, defying gravity as he scissors his legs several times before his feet touch the ground.
A Dizzying Display of Ballet Talent
Don Quixote is a true spectacle, a showcase for great ballet dancers to perform unbelievable physical feats. It might not have the emotional depth of Swan Lake or Giselle, but what it lacks in profoundness it makes up for in storytelling, comic relief, and virtuosic dancing.
Tickets for the 2018-19 Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Series are available at FathomEvents and participating theater box offices.
Ekaterina Krysanova (Kitri), Semyon Chudin (Basilio), Alexei Loparevich (Don Quixote), Roman Simachev (Sancho Panza), Olga Smirnova (The Queen of Dryads), Anna Tikhomirova (A street dancer), Kristina Karasyova (Mercedes) , Daria Khokhlova (Cupid)
The Nutcracker on December 23, 2018
La Bayadere on January 20, 2019
The Sleeping Beauty on March 1, 2019
The Golden Age on April 7, 2019
Carmen Suite doubled teamed with Petrushka on May 19, 2019
Music: Ludvig Minkus
Libretto: Marius Petipa after Miguel de Cervantes
Choreography: Alexei Fadeyechev (based on choreography by Marius Petipa and Alexander Gorsky)
Photos by Damir Yusupov
About the Author:
Rachel Errington is a New York-based actor, producer and writer, originally from Los Angeles. She recently produced and performed in “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” a short film headed for the festival circuit. Rachel graduated from Northwestern with a degree in Theatre. Favorite roles include Beatrice from “A View from the Bridge,” and the title roles in “Medea” and “Miss Julie.” You can learn more about Rachel at www.rachelerrington.com.