PNB’s Principals and Soloists Shine in Don Quixote

Written by Kristen Legg
Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancers Carla Körbes and
Karel Cruz in Alexei Ratmansky’s 
Don Quixote
Photo © Angela Sterling
Pacific Northwest Ballet presented choreographer Alexei Ratmansky’s American premiere of Don Quixoteon February 3, 2012. A remake of the early 1900s Alexander Gorsky version, which was based on Marius Petipa’s original 1869 production for the Imperial Ballet, this version told a simplified story of the senile Don Quixote and his interactions with the young lovers, Kitri and Basilio. 


Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancer Carla Körbes with
company dancers in Alexei Ratmansky’s 
Don Quixote
Photo © Angela Sterling
In Act I, Don Quixote’s madness is presented as he stumbles about his library and then takes off on an adventure with the buffoon, Sancho Panza. They happen upon Kitri, Basilio, and a crowd of Barcelona natives, and the story of Kitri’s unwanted betrothal to the rich suitor Gamache unfolds.  In Act II, the secret lovers run away, pursued by Kitri’s father.  They come upon a band of actors, have some fun, then flee. Don Quixote and Sancho arrive and interact with the actors, until the Don begins seeing things and attacks his new friends.  Sancho goes for help and Don Quixote, exhausted from the battle, dreams of a magical world of fairies and dryads. The story comes to a head in the beginning of Act III, when Kitri is found by her father and forced to marry Gamache. Before the wedding can take place, however, Basilio pretends to stab himself, and Kitri’s father agrees to bless his daughter’s short-lived union with the now “dead” man. Basilio jumps up rejoicing, having tricked Kitri’s father into allowing the two lovers to marry.  The ballet continues with the wedding of Kitri and Basilio and Don Quixote returns home.


For opening night, Carla Körbes was cast as the fiery Kitri. From her first entrance, she commanded the audience’s attention, hurling her passion for life and true love to the back of the theatre.  Her unwavering balances, delicate hops en pointe, and stellar fouettés stole the show.  Not to be out-shone, Karel Cruz performed the role of Basilio brilliantly, with just enough arrogance to remain likeable.  His ability to spring into the air with the slightest plié added surprise and wonder to each pass across the stage. 

Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancer Batkhurel Bold
with company dancers in Alexei Ratmansky’s 
Don Quixote
Photo © Angela Sterling

Maria Chapman and Batkhurel Bold stood out, as well, in their roles as Mercedes, the street dancer, and Espada, the torero. Chapman had the spice and classical training needed to pull off this mixed role (pointe work and character dancing).  She, of the whole cast of dancers, seemed to have the most authentic performance of the evening.  Known for his strength and ferocity, Bold surprised with his rendition of Espada.  While still quite powerful, his cambrés and port de bras had a length and sinuousness not often seen.


The theatricality of the principal roles was quite remarkable.  This performance was lifted even higher with the use of the gifted actors Tom Skerritt (of M.A.S.H. and Picket Fences fame) and Allen Galli (a well-known local stage actor) in the roles of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza.  Skerritt and Galli brought comedy to every scene, playing off one another quite well.  Galli even performed a few well-executed pas de chats, to the delight of the audience.


What the lead performers gave in presentation, the corps, sadly, took away.  The cast was extremely large; having 15 women fanning themselves, 8 men with bright pink bullfighting capes, and a handful of Gypsies, prostitutes, and street children moving about became quite distracting. The corps also lacked the spirit and intensity needed to carry such a great work.  It seems as though traditional character dancing is missing in current ballet training.  The castanet work was lacking from the women, and dropped capes and sloppy fabric twirling from the men pulled focus from the choreography. If PNB plans to continue diversifying their full-length ballet repertoire, which one can only hope they do, they will need to add emphasis in their training to the traditional dance styles.


Pacific Northwest Ballet soloist Lindsi Dec
in Alexei Ratmansky’s 
Don Quixote
Photo © Angela Sterling
However, even with the small distractions, PNB still presented a wonderful rendition of this classic ballet.  The small group and duet work was stunning.  Lindsi Dec and Laura Gilbreath were a perfect pair as Kitri’s friend, Piccilia and Juanita, with their almost-creepily unison work. As mentioned before, Körbes was brilliant as Kitri, including a most surprising variation in the dream sequence in Act II—perhaps her strongest work of the night.  Jonathan Porretta brought comedy to his Gamache on par with Skerritt and Galli’s performances. Rachel Foster gave a delightful rendition of Cupid.  Her movement was light and playful; she truly seemed to hover above the ground, darting amongst her young counterparts.


And, of course, no matter how a performance of Don Quixote goes, everything is forgiven in the end with the grand pas de deux. Children and adults alike could be seen sitting forward in their seats, ready to burst into applause at a moment’s notice as Kitri and Basilio gloriously celebrated their union.


Don Quixote can be seen this weekend, February 4–5, and next February 9–12, 2012 at McCaw Hall.  Tickets are available through www.pnb.org.