Don Quixote, Milwaukee Ballet. Oct. 14th.
Coming back from Vienna and having enjoyed an operetta, a concert, an opera and a ballet within one week, you might well have thought we would be having some performance fatigue. However, we have season's tickets for the Milwaukee Ballet and had had a few days to rest our eyes, so we were up for the performance of "Don Quixote" by the Milwaukee Ballet. This venerable ballet dates from 1869, created by Merius Petipa, the "father of classical ballet", who also orginally choreographed "Sleeping Beauty" among many others, and created definitive versions of other ballets, including "Le Corsaire", "Coppleia," and "Giselle," and, with Lev Ivanov, "Swan Lake" and "The Nutcracker." Petipa's pas de deux from "Don Quixote" remains in the standard reptoire, although most ballets have since been redone by modern choreographers. This performance was no exception, with mostly fresh choreography and a radical restructuring of scenes by the company's Artistic Director, Michael Pink, to the evocative music by Ludwig Minkus. (Minkus was a prolific composer of ballet music, of which "Don Quixote" is his best known today.) Pink, who choreographed last season's "Dracula" which was well reviewed herein, is a skillful man, and it showed in this production.
A caveat: coming to see the Milwaukee Ballet more or less directly from the Vienna Statsoper's "Coppelia" was a bit like seeing some very expert big league team play, and then going to see the local AA team. The Milwaukee Ballet is very good, no question about it, and they are OUR home team, but it cannot be denied they do not have the flawless polish of a company that is funded to do more than five productions in a season.
That being said, we thouroughly enjoyed the performance. The local paper reviewer suggested that the Corps was the real star of the production, and we tend to agree mostly. The company danced the major production numbers with great precision, verve, and evident enjoyment, and managed Pink's innovative dances quite handily. The principal dancers were also very good, with just a few flaws. We like to sit up on one side, which allows us to see the figures of the dance, but also notice things not meant to be seen--.
The role of Don Quixote is not a big dancing role (he spends a lot of the ballet unconscious except for the "Dream of Dulcinea" scene in the Third Act, but Andre Kasatsky put across the role's pathos with skillful physical acting. Marc Petrocci as Sancho Panza was the hero of the piece: not only did he manage some fine comic dancing, he also managed to haul Kasatsky, who is a head and half taller, across the stage over his shoulder while also encumbered by the Sancho costume, the Don's sword, and a bag of luggage (no donkey in this show--), and not drop anything.
Characters in each of the vignettes were quite good: Jeanette Marie Hanley as Kitri, David Hovhannisyan as Basilio, and Cristian Laverde König as the Toreador danced a good love triangle in the second act, although König (last seen by us in lst season's revival of "Sheherzade") was one of the dancers we noticed make a couple of landings with a rear foot out of line. This was his third night in a row dancing a demanding role, and perhaps he was bit fatigued? Douglas McCubbin and Raven Wales were sultry and slinky as the leaders of the Gypsy band; Diana Stetsura, Jennifer Provins, and Andrea Maciel de Faria, managed equal beauty but distinct styles as the shifting visions of Dulcinea in the dream scene; and Ryan Martin and Luz San Miguel handled the Petipa pas de deux with panache, although Martin also fell out of a turn later in the act--must be something about the "powerful" moves required of a Toreador.
The Milwaukee Ballet continues to grow under Pink's leadership, and we have enjoyed everything we have seen by them very much. We are looking forward to the reaminder of the season.