BWW Review: A PERFUNCTORY DON QUIXOTE BY MIKHAILOVSKY BALLET at Segerstrom Center For The Art

BWW Review:  A PERFUNCTORY DON QUIXOTE BY MIKHAILOVSKY BALLET at Segerstrom Center For The Art

When the curtain slowly opened to reveal an imaginary world on the stage, everyone sitting in the Segerstrom Center for the Arts was stunned. The backdrop was so grand and vivid that it was hard to tell whether it was real or printed. At the center sat a lean and tall old man at a table, reading an oversized ancient book. Anyone who'd ever read Miguel Cervantes's Don Quixote, would immediately recognize that this old gentleman was Don Quixote.

In the prologue, the original creator of this ballet, Marius Petipa used less than five minutes to set the tone of the performance: chivalrous, witty and fun. Mikhailovsky Ballet carried the prologue out very well-Don Quixote is engrossed with the book and gets excited about some ideas. As he starts talking to himself, a clown character runs in and hides beneath his table in an effort to elude a few pursuing maids. Seemingly uninterested in the fact that the clown had apparently been up to mischief, once the maids are gone and the coast is clear, Don Quixote makes him his sword bearer and takes him on to the journey ahead!

Although the original ballet, which was created by Marius Patipa and Alexander Gorsky, had four or five acts, the Mikhailovsky Ballet modified it to only three, and some of the soloists dances were removed.

BWW Review:  A PERFUNCTORY DON QUIXOTE BY MIKHAILOVSKY BALLET at Segerstrom Center For The Art

Act I takes place in Barcelona. Here we have an innkeeper wanting to marry his daughter to a rich nobleman; however, his daughter Kitri is madly in love with Basilio, a lowly barber. This marks the first event that Don Quixote witnesses and stands against. He stands for true love and forces the innkeeper to give up a superficial marriage.

In the Mikhailovsky Ballet's version, the original Act I and Act II were combined into one act, and became their most important scene. The pair of leading dancers contributed the most impressive dances; especially Basilio, performed by Ivan Vasiliev, whose movements were extremely explosive. Every jump that he executed received excited screams from the audience.

BWW Review:  A PERFUNCTORY DON QUIXOTE BY MIKHAILOVSKY BALLET at Segerstrom Center For The ArtSurely I had applauded for Ivan Vasiliev's outrageous firepower, and his acting. In terms of the whole show, something was missing from the performance - something important, something big, something that could have made it extraordinary. Other than this leading actor's strong muscles, the overall dancing was boring, and his unusual talent and displays of athleticism became the sole excitement and climax of the night. The reality of that night, which was on November 10, 2018, was a truth that couldn't be hidden from the honest atmosphere: in each act. There was nothing to rave about until Ivan Vasiliev showed off his unbelievable explosiveness.

The quality of the corps de ballet was merely acceptable. What was really missing was the energy - the energy to be witty, to be funny, and to suck people into the story. Watching them, I even started pondering how cruel the classic ballet can be. Dancers can spend equally long periods of time practicing and rehearsing, but once they stand on that stage, they will be judged by everyone, and only very few among them can exceed the demands of every critical eye and roll onto the short list of The Best, or the A-list.

BWW Review:  A PERFUNCTORY DON QUIXOTE BY MIKHAILOVSKY BALLET at Segerstrom Center For The ArtAngelina Vorontsova, who danced the role of Kitri, was not as lean as a typical classical ballet principal dancer. She had no problem completing some difficult moves but that was it; her foot work was not crisp enough. In terms of delivering the graceful and delicate feeling of classical ballet, she was not there. The same was true of Ivan Vasiliev. His big and strong thighs were the reason for his firepower, and he could stay in the air for at least one full second during a flip, but visually, he came off more like an athlete than a classical ballet dancer. You were amazed by his capability; not by the beauty of ballet.

When a performance lacks precise delicacy, and the highlights of the show rely on the principal dancers' unusual jumps, how far can this production go?

BWW Review:  A PERFUNCTORY DON QUIXOTE BY MIKHAILOVSKY BALLET at Segerstrom Center For The ArtThe reality in the ballet world is that nobody and no theater can be perfect. Not only does each one have its own strength and style, but also it is unfair to require every ballet theater to match one standard. Mikhailovsky Ballet has shown the world other possibilities for ballet dancers' bodies and training, and they sparkle when doing so. Many audience members loved it and enjoyed it tremendously. The Segerstrom Center for the Arts was filled with wows and screams that night. Ivan Vasiliev stole the thunder from every other dancer and was undoubtedly the star.

But if you ask me about the artistic level of the overall performance, I have no hesitation to tell you that fire was missing on the stage and the choreography was dull. This version of Don Quixote may be good enough for people who casually hop around the realm of ballet and other performing arts, but it is not preferred by classical ballet lovers.

PHOTO CREDIT: DOUG GIFFORD

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