Don Quixote

November 6, 2008 at 8:41 pm | Posted in Ballet Review, Show Review | Leave a comment
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I went to the opening night of Royal New Zealand Ballet’s new production of Don Quixote at the St. James, in Wellington. Warning: plot revealed.

Oct 31, 2008 by Show_Hanger

This re-working of the Don Quixote story is as much about creating a new perspective on a traditional story as celebrating a Sir Jon Trimmer’s 50th year with the Royal New Zealand Ballet. At 69, Sir Jon no longer dances the vigourous roles he took on earlier in his career, instead he has matured into a fine stage actor. So the role of the aging, and sometimes confused, Don is a perfect vehicle for his talents. Gary Harris has, I am told, for I have not seen the classic Russian version, utilised the original Petipa choreography in a new light, that makes the Don less of a 2-dimensional character. Adrian Burnett was the choreographer for this production.

Act I opens with the Don in bed surrounded by his books and visited by his nephew – Sancho, danced by Matthew Braun. The Don decides that he will have one last adventure and takes one of his journals with him to guide them on their journey, and takes a hefty bag of money to pay the way. The Don and Sancho have an english air to them – the Don is World War II British pilot’s leather flying helmut and sheep skin jacket, Sancho in a set of tweeds. The two of them end-up in a mediterranean village where we are introduced to the other main characters: Gamache and Mercedes; Basilio and Kitri.

The set for the village is wonderful, with a major surprise for me: the floor was a creamy colour – rather than the usual black. It made the set very bright and enhanced the mediterranean feel.

Kitri is ably danced by Yu Takayama: her grand jetes and sissones were superb. Basilio – Kitri’s future husband – is danced by Marc Cassidy. The villian – Gamache – is able danced by Paul Mathews. His principle moll – Mercedes – is danced by Abigail Boyle.

Act II sees: Kitri and Basilio run off into the woods, and encounter some gypsies; the Don and Sancha have a violent encounter with the same gypsies in the same woods – resulting in the Don having a dream sequence; Gamache successfulled steals the Don’s money.

The gypsy dance sequences shows – for me – how far the Company has come in the 6 years that I have been attending their performances. The dancing is energetic and passionate – without loosing musicality or technique. The number of male dancers has increased, so that of the large number of gypsies, half were male – rather than a token sprinkling.

The dream sequence showed all the hallmarks of a Petipa piece – ballerinas: in white tutus, in small groups and long diagonal lines, in formations blocking a man’s path. And was executed superbly. Meddhi Angot as Cubid was wonderful – powerful jumps and leaps: best russian (scissor leap) I have ever seen!

In Act III, the Don and Sancha catch up with Gamache and recover the money and through an act of great generosity Basilio and Kitri are married. The drunken Gamache – trying to drink his way through the Don’s money – sequnce could double as a homage to John Cleese. Basilio and Kitri’s pas de deux was well executed with some chemistry. Another obvious Petipa touch was Kitri’s fouettes of joy – I counted 31!

There were some first night nerves, the most memerable was Kitri dropping her fan just before commensing her fan dance at the wedding! the most unsettling was the slightly late start.

There are some hummerous moments and some very busy moments. Gamache is introduced walking his little dog – a Weta Workshops creation. It was a real hit with the audience and hopefuully will get roles in the Company’s future productions – like The Wedding. Many of the village sequences were very ‘busy’ – in some way they were more like movie sequences – and at times distracted from the dancing.



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