Joffrey Opens Promising Season with Delightful Don Quixote

October 15, 2011
Review by Chicago Theatre Review
Darcy Rose Coussens

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I go to the ballet for many reasons. I love spending a classy night at the Auditorium Theater and accompanied by the Chicago Sinfonietta. I attend the ballet to be told a story in a unique way. I want to be amazed, to gasp and delight in grace, power and control developped beyond normal human capacity. Most of all, I go to the ballet to see something beautiful. The Joffrey’s Don Quixote, one of the most entertaining and stylistically varied ballets, delivers all the humor, stunts, and beauty an audience could desire.

Don Quixote kicks off the 2011-2012 subscription series at The Joffrey, aptly entitled “New Generation.” The performance follows the story written by Miguel de Cervantes of a delusional nobleman who believes himself a chivalrous knight in the adventures of his dreams. Choreography by Yuri Possokhov offers a Russian touch to the Spanish story, mixing Bolshoi ballet and festive Spanish dance styles. This ballet appeals to a wider audience than some others because of its humorous storyline. The performance involved some excellent character work in addition to the Joffrey’s exquisite dancing. Several audience members audibly sighed upon the entrance of Victoria Jaiani as Kitri, who stole the show from the beginning until her series of about 30 fouetté turns in the final scene.

The company numbers were each dynamic, fun, and often sassy and coy. At times they were almost soothing– I would get lost in a dance and it would seem unnatural for the dancers to stop moving at the end. Although a few company soloists moved a little stiffly and at times lost their expressions, this company is truly outstanding. The clever use of movement and expression to convey humor kept the audience engaged throughout the evening. The male soloists lived up to the leading lady, although before attempting the most difficult leaps and turning jumps they appeared a little worried, which made me nervous. However, Carlos Quenedit as Basilio was so successful in these attempts that in his final sequence, an audience member behind me cheered “yes!” upon each landing as if she were coaching a gymnast.

The details of the polished set and projected backgrounds set the stage for the dancers’ success. They were dressed in marvelous costumes of red, orange, turquoise, and sparkly gold. The warm, vivid colors of the ruffled dresses, bedazzled tutus and swooshing capes gave the story its Spanish touch, as did the detailed, fans, tambourines, and castanets. The production even featured a giant, puppetted pony for which two dancers provided the legs. The moving projections illustrated the story between and even during scenes. Projections designer Wendall Harrington achieved a creative use of artwork and media to tell this story, while maintaining the integrity of the piece.

Applause fairly rang through the Auditorium Theater on opening night. The audience enthusically supported the company, and they did not disappoint in technique or spectacle. There are only 10 performances, and I have no doubt that each night will be as successful as the first. Don Quixote opens a promising season with the Joffrey, complete with flying, diving, tradition, seduction, and most of all, beauty.