25 July 2012, Wangaratta Performing Arts Centre (touring Australia July 18 to August 21 2012).
Dancers: The Australian Ballet’s Dancers Company
Guest Artists: Francis Croese, Steven Heathcote AM, Yosvani Ramos, Reiko Hombo, Matthew Donnelly, Chengwu Guo, Ako Kondo
Director: Marilyn Rowe
Choreographer: Ai-Gul Gaisina
Costumes: Bary Kay
On 25 July 2012 The Dancers Company (Australian Ballet’s regional touring ensemble) brought the traditional tale of Don Quixote to the stage of the Wangaratta Performing Arts Centre. First choreographed and performed in Russia in 1869, Don Quixote has come a long way to become one of the world’s most adapted ballets.
Full of imagination and tales of love and romance, Don Quixote sets out on a quest to find his true love (which proved an anticlimactic opening scene). He soon crosses paths with two star-crossed lovers, Kitri and Basillio, who wish to get married despite Kitri’s father's wishes.
One night, while chasing after Kitri, Don Quixote comes across a band of gypsies who offer him wine, which induces a strange dream where he finds himself in the land of the Queen of Dryads. Then, after two intermissions, the ballet comes to a close in Act Three, the wedding of Kitri and Basilio, which then leaves Don Quixote to stride off to another adventure.
The Dancers Company's rendition of Don Quixote is a beautiful, lively and earthly adaptation; however it all seemed just too... comical. The Spanish clicking, Basilio's miming to strum the guitar, and the hessian nightmare creatures were far from the elegant and poised performance that I was expecting.
Having said this, Don Quixote is known for its comedic roles, which dancers such as guest Artist Mathew Donnelly especially enjoy playing, but it was the first ballet at which I have witnessed audience members laughing out loud at the clowning behaviours of characters such as Sancho and the nobleman Gamache.
As expected, Don Quixote does not shy away from extravagant dance costumes. From Spanish maidens to lavish wigs and hats, the richly textured costumes by Bary Kay caught the audience’s attention - and let’s not forget those men in tights!
The choreography by former ballerina Ai-Gul Gaisina was incredible. Her talent and her lifetime of experience translated into an exceptional composition. However, in amongst the graceful leaps and bounds, pirouettes, jetés and high-energy smiles, there was a significant difference between the moves of the graduating company those of the guest artists.
Profile dancers Ako and Chengwu remained the highlight of the performance in what seemed flawless fouette jetés while minute timing errors created a clear distinction between the graduates and the professionals.
The Dancers Company will be touring Don Quixote till 21 August 2012 and in the process will travel more than 7000 kilometres, presenting it to 16 audiences in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland.
Don Quixote was an enjoyable cultural experience for North East rural Victorians whose only encounter with ballet normally stems from local dance competitions. The night was appreciated by everyone who attended, and even garnered a standing ovation from some.
Three and a half out of five.
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