Pennsylvania Ballet is now presenting its full-length Don Quixote at the Philadelphia Academy of Music until October 20.
Most ballet goers have at least an acquaintance with Don Quixote. Based on the Cervantes novel, we meet two lovers who encounter the errant knight. We witness his spectacular dream sequence brought about after he attacked a windmill and lay unconscious. Act III, the young lovers’ wedding, gives a sprawling opportunity for balletic display. For years, it was presented with only Act III, since that had the most choreographic razzle-dazzle. However, over the years many companies have created their own full-length versions on the original choreography by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov, with music by Ludwig Minkus.
Pennsylvania Ballet is no exception in that Artistic Director Angel Corella created his own version of Don Quixote a few seasons ago, basing his version on his many experiences dancing the role of Basilio during his stellar international ballet career. We have an article in the Playbill highlighting Mr. Corella’s love of Don Quixote. “A Ballet That Feels Like Home,” features a large photo of Mr. Corella from his days as a star, and some of his personal feelings about this Spanish-inspired story told by a Spanish dancer in this iteration. As he writes, “I’m able to bring the knowledge and flavor of my hometown to create a ballet that reminds me of home.” Corella traveled to Spain to purchase costumes, and as he writes, “my incredible mother helped to decorate the bullfighter jackets.” How incredible is that? Angel Corella built his own dollhouse with help from his mother. And he has choreographed his live-action figures.
Seen this October 11, Kitri was danced by Dayesi Torriente and Basilio by Sterling Baca. Both were in their element this night and delivered terrific performances. Mr. Baca, from the very first scenes, danced with power, grace, and assurance. Every step came to him as if it were second nature. When he appeared in a splendid white costume in Act III, many wished that there might be a Sterling Baca action figure for Christmas. He looked that good. Mr. Baca’s strong partnering encouraged Ms. Torriente to take many thrilling risks which she performed with seeming ease. Indeed, many women this evening danced especially well, including Nayara Lopes, Gabriela Mesa, and Lucia Erickson, to name a few. The women of the corps de ballet went from character clothes and shoes to pointe shoes back into character costumes without a hitch. Not an easy thing to do.
Scenery by Ralph Funicello and Lighting by Michael Korsch worked well indeed. Beatrice Jona Affron, Music Director, conducted her orchestra this evening, allowing the dancers to finish their choreography several times in Act I while holding the last note of the music, sometimes for what seemed a comically long time. By Act III, the music thrillingly accompanied the choreographic fireworks on stage. Charles Askegard, who played Don Quixote, still moves with grace and power after his decades-long international career. Mr. Askegard’s mastery of mime and his noble bearing commanded the stage. He was also, by far, the tallest man on stage. No wonder people feared this Don.
Don Quixote is now playing at the Academy of Music until October 20 with several different casts. For casting information, and to purchase tickets, visit www.paballet.org . Next will be a program of World Premieres, November 7-10, and The Nutcracker, December 6-31.