Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Royal Ballet: Don Quixote

The iconic windmill! The Spanish dress! Image found here:
Last week, a friend and I went to see the Royal Ballet perform Don Quixote. The only part of the story I remembered was the crazy guy on a horse trying to fight a windmill. This ended up being only a small part of the show, but I did get a refresher about more of the story!

This set makes the stage look like the size of a real town square! Image found here:
First of all, the sets were beautiful! They were SO big: you really felt like you were looking at a whole town square, or in a tavern with very tall ceilings! And the detail was amazing, from all the buildings to actually watching the sun set into the horizon. I cannot imagine how many days (weeks! months!) it took to create all of the wonderful scenery (and how do they get it from England to America? Do they break it all down and then build it again over here?). And the music was superb, too! The Spanish-inspired music (with castanets, of course!) was lively and energetic pretty much the entire way through!

Gypsies. Image found here:
I was also taken aback by how many dancers there were. This is a huge company! Of course they want to try to include everyone in the performance, but sometimes it was a bit overwhelming to have so many dancers (30+) on stage at one time. Sometimes less is more.This was especially true during the scenes in the town square, since a lot of people are just standing around. I was surprised how long that scene was, too, since it wasn't that exciting (and I'm sure that part of the story in the book was not nearly that long!). I also thought there were too many gypsies, and was surprised they didn't start snapping à la Westside Story when they did their skulking "boys vs. girls" dance.

Do these look like ballet dancers? No, I didn't think so. Image found here:
While most of the dancing was good (it is the Royal Ballet at the Kennedy Center), the character acting really turned me off. Perhaps this is why I usually don't care for ballets based on pre-written stories, since those tales weren't originally meant to be told by dance. Some of the characters barely dance at all, like Don Quixote and his pal Sancho Panza, or Gamache, a pompous nobleman. They were really there for comic relief, but for me, their slap-stick comedy took away from the essence of ballet. Running around the stage, getting hit in the face or falling down, making funny faces...all of that is more appropriate for a children's show, not a classic ballet. I realize it's all part of the story, but every time they came on stage, they took me out of the ballet experience; I was just sitting there waiting for it to be over.

Would a real matador wear this outfit? Um, no. Image found here:
The costumes were a bit hit-or-miss for me. Most of the townspeople were dressed in faded, muted colors, which just aren't that pretty to look at. However, some of the costumes were the opposite, with bright, clashing colors to the point that they were garish! Even Ryoichi Hirano, who was a fantastic dancer (light as a feather on his feet!) was forced to wear a bright green and pink outfit as a matador (huh?). There were also some demons/nightmares who were dressed like black ghosts, but had pointy masks on that were eerily like those of the Ku Klux Klan; perhaps this reference didn't make its way across the Atlantic Ocean? But of course my favorite costumes (and part of the play) were the Dryads (i.e. forest nymphs). They were dressed in beautiful tutus, and were the epitome of what ballet dancers should look like. Melissa Hamilton played the Queen of the Dryads, and she was incredible! She was so sprightly and quick on her feet! It was so fun to watch her. Meaghan Grace Hinkis played another Dryad, Amour, but she made some mistakes (noticeable to even the untrained eye), and stomped on stage rather than having light footfalls. But all in all, this scene was by far my favorite, and the most like classical ballet.

Those flowers! And the tutus! THIS is ballet! Image found here:
Mmm...I love a man in white tights! Image found here:
The most impressive dancers were of course the main characters. Carlos Acosta played Basilio, and Marianela Nuñez played Kitri, his lover. The whole story follows this couple, from them falling in love (against her father's wishes) to running away to the happy ending. Acosta is very impressive: not only is he an amazing dancer, but he also helped with the production and choreography (AND he's in his forties, when you'd think he'd be past his prime!). And she was clearly the prima ballerina. She has such a big personality on stage, and both she and Acosta were very expressive actors. I really did believe they were two young people in love! They are such strong dancers, which was especially true at the end when they had their solos and could really show off their skills (which is even more impressive since that's at the end of the show!). And of course I loved her wedding tutu. #DUH

Image found here:
 Bravo! I would love to see the Royal Ballet perform again!

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