BWW Review: The Bolshoi Ballet's DON QUIXOTE
The brilliant, bold and beautiful Bolshoi Ballet presented its classic Don Quixote at the Koch Theatre on July 22, 2014 as part of the Lincoln Center Festival. This Don Quixote is so rich in detail and so full of spectacular dancing and wonderful acting that all other productions pale in comparison. They can't help it-they're the Bolshoi-they "own" Don Quixote--this passionate dancing is in their blood. What becomes trite sometimes in other productions of Don Quixote is full-blooded art with the Bolshoi. It is alive in the gorgeous, lush, feminine women and the drenched-in-virility men, the beautiful arms, expansive chests, glorious virtuosity, stupendous character dancing like nowhere else, and delightful panache and pastiche in both dancing and acting.
Don Quixote was revived and revised in Russia several times since the original one by Marius Petipa for the Moscow Bolshoi Theatre in 1869. The current production was restored by Alexei Fadeyechev, after Petipa and Alexander Gorsky, in 1999. In its many guises, the Bolshoi has performed Don Quixote over 1,000 times in the past 145 years.
The cast was wonderful. Maria Alexandrova was the flirtatious and fabulous Kitri. With her gorgeous arms, incredible footwork and faster than lighting turns-make her the perfect Kitri.
Basilio, her love interest, was the high-flying charmer Vladislav Lantratov. The acting roles of Don Quixote-Alexei Loparevich, his sidekick, Sancho Panza-Roman Simachev, Gamache, Kitri's wealthy suitor-- Denis Savin and all other cast members was lucidly clear across the footlights. The Russians are trained from childhood in the specific style of mime/stage acting required by the classical ballets, which their American counterparts are not, and this skill is lacking in most American and European productions.
All other featured dancers were wonderful. Denis Rodkin as Espada, the Toreador, was magnetic, tearing up the stage with his presence and dancing. All of the Spanish and Gypsy dancers were stupendous: Anna Tikhomirova, Oxana Sharova, Maria Zharkova, and the glorious spell-binding performance of the Gypsy by Kristina Karasyova. The pliant backbends-a signature of the Bolshoi female character dancers--and their controlled yet passionate flamenco/Russian movements are mesmerizing. This goes for all of the character dancers in this production. The Russian ballet schools emphasize character, or nationalistic dancing, in their curriculums and some students go on to be specifically character dancers in the ballet companies. These character dances are rich and are an art form unto themselves, another sadly lacking element in American and European ballet schooling. Often in other Don Quixote productions character dances become, however entertaining, a kind of fusion of ballet and character steps. The Bolshoi gives us the real thing-exciting solo, duet and group character dancing with every single performer pulsing with life onstage.
In the classical dream scene, the divine Olga Smirnova, a rising Bolshoi star, as the Queen of the Dryads, gave us the epitome of pure classical ballet-beautiful carriage and arms and spectacular technique. Yulia Lunkina was the adorable and fleet-footed Cupid. Other fabulous classical performances included Yanina Parienko and Anna Rebetskaya as Kitri's friends, and Maria Vinogradova and Ana Turazashvili in the Grand Pas variations.
The Bolshoi Orchestra, brilliantly conducted by Pavel Klinichev played the Minkus score with excitement and gusto. Another exciting note of the Bolshoi's production is the use onstage of the castanets and extensive fan work which adds to the Spanish authenticity and flair.
You have heard of the magnificence of the Bolshoi Ballet-it is all true-go and see for yourself before the week is over-if you can get a ticket. Spartacus starts on Thursday night, July 24 and runs through the weekend.