American Ballet Theatre
Metropolitan Opera House
New York, New York
May 14, 2014
by Mary Cargill
copyright © 2014 by Mary Cargill
The opening scene on "Don Quixote", with the Don and Sancho Panza, is as close to the original as the frivolous, silly, and endearing ballet gets, as Quixote (Victor Barbee) and his side kick (Luis Ribagorda) mimed their search. A vision of Dulcinea appeared, and Barbee slowly dropped to his knees, reverently bowing to beauty. This simple moment encapsulated so beautifully the underlying theme of all of Petipa's ballets--there is beauty in this world and men look for it.
Xiomara Reyes (substituting for the injured Gillian Murphy) and Alban Lendorf, a guest from the Royal Danish Ballet, were the energetic couple. Lendorf made one appearance with ABT last year in "The Sleeping Beauty", and flew in this year for one performance, so who knows how much rehearsal they were able to get. This may explain some of the slightly shaky lifts, but the diving jumps were fearless. Lendorf is a noted Bournonville stylist, which stresses constant movement, little jumps, and a natural and engaged stage presence. He used this slightly understated approach very well, and his Basilio was a sweet-natured flirt, perfectly believable as a poor barber. He has beautifully soft jumps, though seemed to push the height a bit. But inviting such a wonderful Bournonville dancer to perform Sovietized Petipa was a bit like hearing the world's greatest tenor sing miked Broadway songs.
Reyes is a charming Kitri, and her Cuban training serves her well in her fouetté finale, where she threw in many doubles, fan over her head. Her Kitri was so much more than a technical tour de force, as she combined spunk with genuine joy. Her interactions with the deluded Don were especially affecting, as she seemed to say her farewell with a promise that she would try to be the woman he imagined her to be, changing from a happy girl to a glowing woman.
She had already had a chance to glow, in the dramatically pointless but absolutely luminous vision scene. She doesn't have quite the line that taller dancers have, phrased her solo clearly. She made the little hops of point flow, so she seemed to be floating over the ground, a technical feat disguised by artistry. Misty Copeland was her Queen; the new practice of doubling the feisty Mercedes and the serene Dryad Queen tends to mean that one or the other gets a less suitable cast, and Copeland has a natural feistiness that made her Mercedes smolder. But she was a lovely dryad, lifting her head to catch the light and seeming to elongate her line. Those tricky Italian fouettés came a bit unstuck at the end, but she was commanding and luminous.
Arron Scott and Isadora Loyola as the gyrating gypsies were commanding, but certainly not luminous, as the camp, with the men in their tatty velour stretch pants, looked more like a group of down-at-heels gymnasts too broke to buy shirts or afford haircuts than a group of gypsies--where is a barber when you need him? Loyola, a dark-haired beauty, justified her slinky solo.
Craig Salstein was Gamache, the rich, vain, rejected suitor and he turned shtick into gold, reacting to everything on stage, convinced that everyone wanted to hear what he had to say. The pratfalls were broad but the humor was subtle, a caricature with true humanity--just like the ballet.
copyright © 2014 by Mary Cargill