DON QUIXOTE, ROYAL BALLET, ROH LIVE CINEMA RELAY 19TH FEBRUARY 2019

This was my first time seeing any version of Don Quixote, and after the build up in the live stream intro by Ore Odube and Kristen McNally, expectations were very high! Over-riding for me in the anticipation of this ballet was the fact it was Carlos Acosta’s production and choreography (after Marius Petipa). I *loved* Acosta’s Carmen and another of his Spanish ballet’s would surely be wonderful.

And the first half of the ballet delivered just as I had expected it would. The crowd scenes were alive with energy, and the “carefree naturalism” Kevin O’Hare said Carlos introduced to this ballet was evident everywhere. You immediately warmed to the whole cast and felt immersed in their Spanish scenario.

Kitri danced by Akane Takada was magnificent! O’Hare said in the intro she has, “blossomed into a great principal dancer”. Everyone watching this performance would say she “exploded” onto the stage with energy, wit and personality in abundance. She danced beautifully throughout and was totally believable. I can’t write about the chemistry between her and Alexander Campbell because their relationship felt much deeper than that. They danced like they were completely comfortable and trusting of one another, but it was never boring, there was excitement and joy too. O’Hare had said Alexander has a, ‘”wonderful charm… and is a superb partner”, he certainly demonstrated this throughout and his technique was polished to perfection and delivered coolly and calmly. I loved the smiles of true happiness he gave Akane as they broke away from various poses.

I really enjoyed the toreador dancers with their costumes accentuating their lines and movements to perfection! Valentino Zucchetti was magnificent as Espada – strong, with swagger and personality abounding, matched by virtuoso technique. Mayara Magri gave a great performance as Mercedes and seemed totally at ease with her naturalistic posing and mime. And the gypsy camp, how evocative that set was. Tim Hatley was very successful in his aim of transporting us to the “smell of a gypsy camp”, and I felt I could see Carlos’ choreographic hand at work here and revel in the richness of the scene.

Then, I felt like I’d been transported to another ballet! What was that dream scene with the stiff tutus and ballerinas on show? It seems strange to me, seeing the ballet for the first time that in creating a new production of the ballet this section has remained. Surely it is one of the elements of mid-19th Century ballets that choreographers such as Fokine rebelled against when they said that the elements of a ballet such as subject, period, music, costumes and movements should work together in harmony to create an integrated artistic piece. What use are stiff white tutus in peasant Spain? Similarly I found Kitri and Basilio dancing the final Act in traditional white classical ballet costumes out of place. I would have understood that they should wear better, grander clothes to celebrate their marriage in, but it would have been a much more pleasing overall production if the ballet had stayed in the real and natural character in which it began.

The dancing was knockout though – and really that’s what matters to those of us who appreciate every pas and enchainment – but I think it’s interesting to consider how we present ballet in the 21st century. Should we conform to past conventions which are out of touch with how we enjoy artistic productions today? Of course what is considered essential to a classic and what can be removed is going to differ depending on the views of the individual charged with the production, but surely if someone is to put their name to a ballet it should represent the whole of their artistic vision for the piece of work, without having to make compromises for tradition.

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