3 stars out of 4
The Ballet Nacional de Cuba, Cuba’s national ballet company, performed their version of the classical ballet Don Quixote this weekend at the Auditorium Theatre. Like Alexander Ekman’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, which recently graced the Auditorium’s stage, this Don Quixote has little to nothing to do with the monumental work of literature from whence its title comes: Don Quixote himself is but a prop here, his presence mere frosting on top of a traditional love story cake. (Cervantes fans, you have been warned). However, while Ekman’s work pushes dance into astonishing territory, this is an extremely traditional story ballet, firmly rooted in classical traditions. Though it fails to deliver choreographically anything an audience has not already seen, it does deliver a warm, pleasant, meticulously presented show. Like watching a favorite old sitcom, or consuming an ice cream sundae with whipped cream and Hershey’s sauce, experiencing this production makes you feel good, and then requires nothing further of you.
Act One introduces the love story between Kitri (Grettel Morejon) and Basilio (Dani Hernandez), who are the real stars of the show. Morejon and Hernandez are both vigorous, virtuosic dancers, who get to strut their stuff in repeated solos throughout the piece (especially at their marriage in Act Three). They are thwarted by Kitri’s father Lorenzo (Felix Rodriguez, who mostly pantomimes), and Camacho, who bribes Lorenzo for Kitri’s hand. If you’ve ever been to an opera, this plot should feel familiar. The real fun in Act One comes from the energy produced by the entire cast as Spanish villagers, especially the athletic grace of the bullfighters, led by Ariel Martinez. There is lots of celebration, and lots of excuses to dance. Act Two is sleepier-- literally, as Don Quixote gets knocked unconscious and hallucinates an elaborate dream with dancing Dryads. The gypsies’ dance, led by Ginett Moncho and Raul Abreu, is livelier. Act Three resolves with the couple’s marriage, with many of the aforementioned celebratory solos.
In general, Alicia Alonso’s choreography airs on the side of caution, reproducing Russian classical technique after the original by Marius Petipa and the version by Alexander Gorsky. It is executed flawlessly by her cast, and there is distinct pleasure in watching a world-class company so perfectly in synch with each other-- and with the musicians of the wonderful Chicago Philharmonic, who perform the score by Ludwig Minkus. The set is gorgeous- a warm Spanish village and cool nighttime forest with two painted screens that descend for more intimate downstage sections. The costumes by Salvador Fernandez are as colorfully Iberian as you could hope for. Grab a spoon, relax, and enjoy.
Don Quixote runs May 18-20 at the Auditorium Theatre (50 E. Congress Pkwy). Call the box office at 312-341-2310 or visit www.auditoriumtheatre.org for more information.
Susanna is a Teaching Artist with Chicago's finest dance education companies, exposing hundreds of students to the art of dance each year. She holds a B.A. in Anthropology and Dance from Macalester College in St. Paul, MN, where she was awarded the David Wick Prize for Choreography. Susanna enjoys performing, keeping up with the city's performance scenes, and traveling.