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The Mariinsky Ballet

'Don Quixote'

by Carmel Morgan

January 15, 2009 -- The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Opera House, Washington, DC

The former Kirov Ballet is now touring the United States as the Mariinsky Ballet, reflecting the name of the St. Petersburg theatre that the famed Russian ballet company has long called home.  Their “Don Quixote” presumably has not changed a great deal since its debut at the Mariinsky Theatre over one hundred years ago, on January 20, 1902.

The Mariinsky’s version of “Don Quixote” was choreographed by Alexander Gorsky, after Marius Petipa, with the Gypsy and Oriental dances by Nina Anisimova.  The ballet is based, of course, on the celebrated novel by Miguel de Cervantes and its foundation is character-driven rather than plot-driven.  The Thursday night performance featured Viktoria Tereshkina as Kitri and Andrian Fadeyev as Basil.  While Tereshkina and Fadeyev made a comely couple, there was no blazing romance between them and no particular sizzle in their steps.

Don Quixote (Vladimir Ponomarev) resembled a medieval Forrest Gump, a dim-witted man with big dreams and a lot of dumb luck.  Accompanied by Sancho Panza (a padded, pot-bellied Stanislav Burov), the pair ended up wreaking happy havoc as they pursued their adventure.  The ballet’s focus, however, is on the young lovers, who with the help of Don Quixote scheme to marry despite the objections of Kitri’s father (Igor Petrov).

Since the story is set in Spain, the ballet includes some saucy Spanish-inspired dancing.  Women in lace, fringe, and heels whipped fans in the air flirtatiously, and bullfighting men tantalizingly swirled red capes.  Tereshkina’s Kitri ought to have possessed some of this Spanish flair, but her performance fell flat.  She was more quiet than showy, and Fadeyev, too, was rather subdued.  They danced effortlessly and with technical prowess, but in a way that made them appear slightly stiff.  The colorful set and costumes and the ballet’s many comic elements failed to enliven the dancing of the star duo.

Despite the somewhat lackluster performance of Tereshkina and Fadeyev, some dancers did radiate in their roles.  The Kingdom of the Dryads section was a definite highlight, with flower garlands and women clad in fluffs of tulle in a palette straight out of Monet’s Water Lilies.  Noteworthy were Valerya Martinyuk as Amour, a delightfully spunky Cupid, and Ekaterina Kondaurova, an especially elegant Queen of the Dryads.  Martinyuk, a petite dancer, looked like a tiny birthday cake topper.  She breezed across the stage in wide leaps that hung suspended in the air.  Kondaurova, who is sometimes called “Big Red” by balletomanes, is a striking beauty, and her long limbs were well suited for the role of Queen.

The Mariinsky’s dancers are doubtless extremely talented, but in “Don Quixote” their technique surpassed their artistry, resulting in a performance that did not sparkle as brightly as it should.

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