Choreographer innovates while staying true to origins of a fast-paced, story-rich classic.
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The episodic story ballet "Don Quixote" has fascinated generations of audiences worldwide. After a 30-year absence from the Capitol Theatre stage of even the most recognizable sections of this hallmark of classical dance, Ballet West's Friday night opening proved its time has come.
The captivating adaptation by choreographer Anna-Marie Holmes is packed with dancing a comment that might seem like a given in any ballet performance. But Holmes has ingeniously busted open all convention while staying true to its origins by Marius Petipa and Alexander Gorsky (1869).
To put this in perspective, Holmes was performing on Broadway in Agnes de Mille's "Brigadoon" in 1960 before she left to study and become a principal with the Kirov Ballet in Soviet Russia. Her version of "Don Q" brings depth to all the theatrical elements of the story through meaningful choreography. Most sections of this ballet could stand on their own as fully developed pieces of choreography.
A general hunger for new ballets that are not necessarily abstract has recently emerged. One example is choreographer Twyla Tharp's new narrative ballet "The Princess and the Goblin" for Atlanta Ballet. But if anything is going to bring vitality to the full-length standards, it is substantial adaptations such as Holmes' "Don Q."
However, it is only recently that Ballet West would have the chops to successfully populate four full casts in this technically difficult, fast-paced and story-rich production. Working upward through the ranks, in the powerful men's Spanish Dance, Ballet West II dancer Ryan Sargent equally held the stage with Artists Adrian Fry, demi-soloist Christopher Anderson, soloist Christopher Sellars, and lead soloist Tom Mattingly. Soloist Arolyn Williams' Cupid was rhythmically precise, sweet and lithe.
Also noteworthy was principal dancer Christiana Bennett as Queen of the Dryads, which was, in a word, perfect.
In Act II, Scene I, as if out of nowhere, artist Kuei-Hsien Chu, wowed the audience with split leaps and multiple turns that brought whistles and cheers for his bravura. Demi-soloist Allison DeBona gave her most magnetic performance since joining Ballet West in 2007. Soloist Beau Pearson played the role of Don Quixote with considerate respect for the silent narrator who carries the adventure from scene to scene.
But of course, the night belonged to 19-year-old Beckanne Sisk in the lead role of Kitri, and principal Christopher Ruud as her Basilio. Sisk was invited to join BW II last year, taken in the company this season, and was rightfully cast as lead on opening night in a role that is arguably as difficult as Aurora (Sleeping Beauty) or Odette/Odile (Swan Lake). The audience spontaneously erupted in cheers as Sisk confidently executed 32 (maybe even 38) fouteé turns connected by triple pirouettes in the grand pas de deux. Ruud's love for moving large on the stage was never more evident. Through no fault of his own, Ruud's usual expert partnering seemed effortful at times as he tried to rein in Sisk's extraordinary flexibility which appears to be her only weakness.
So now Ballet West has added to its trilogy of classics. We have a "Giselle," a "Swan Lake," a "Sleeping Beauty," and possibly the best a "Don Q."
Review: Ballet West's 'Don Quixote'
Wildly entertaining. The shortest two and a half hours I ever experienced while sitting.
When • Reviewed Friday, Feb. 10; continues Feb. 11 and Feb. 14-18 at 7:30 p.m., with 2 p.m. matinee Feb. 19.
Where • Capitol Theatre, 50 W. 200 South, Salt Lake City
Tickets • $19-$75 (plus handling fees); at 801-355-ARTS or arttix.org.
More • Ticketholders are invited to Warmup Q-and-A conversations with Ballet West artistic staff an hour before the performance.
Running time • Two hours and 30 minutes, with two intermissions.