PNB’s American Premiere of Alexei Ratmansky’s spectacular “Don Quixote” is grand and gorgeous.
Photo © Angela Sterling. Allen Galli as Sancho Panza, and Tom Skerritt as Don Quixote, with Pacific Northwest Ballet company dancers in Alexei Ratmansky’s Don Quixote.
It’s an exciting production – the largest ever presented in the company’s history – and it exceeds expectations on every level.
Originally created for the Dutch National Ballet in 2010, this immensely popular story ballet combines Ratmansky’s acclaimed Russian fluency with classical tradition, lush and innovative sets and striking costumes.
Elements of wit and romance feature prominently in the tale of this epic production, which follows Spain’s legendary hero, Don Quixote, and his faithful squire, Sancho Panza, to the famed city of Barcelona on a quest for Don’s dream lover, Dulcinea.
Instead, the pair encounters the charming and high-spirited Kitri, whose father Lorenzo insists she marry a rich buffoon named Gamache rather than the poor, but handsome Basilio.
The couple flees to escapes this predicament and their ensuing adventures, reflected by Don’s other-worldly visions, bring to life a colorful blitz of bullfights, village peasant drama, acts of thievery and deception and an array of cultural festivities.
The choreography is dynamic and electric, from gasp-inducing leaps and eye-popping one-handed lifts to endlessly whirling pirouettes.
Matadors and toreros crisply swing their capes in a display of athletic machismo, while fan-wielding women create elegant visual tableaus.
The technical challenges of the choreography are many and PNB dancers do not disappoint, putting on a showcase of awe-inspiring dance that wows the audience and keeps them at the edge of their seats.
Emmy Award-winning actor Tom Skerritt makes his ballet debut in the lead role of Don Quixote.
He plays the aging, confused knight to perfection, with sweet chivalry and a misguided determination for righting the wrongs he sees.
He spends much time observing life, often with a childlike wonderment. Easily distracted, his attention wanders along with his mind, resulting in a series of hallucinatory visions.
In one scene, he is surrounded by prickly cactus-like creatures and frightening monsters — a nightmare that is greatly enhanced with the help of Jerome Kaplan’s incredibly imaginative costumes.
In another, Don finds himself in a fairy, dreamlike forest amid dancing cupids and dryads.
As the curtain rises, there is a collective “ooh” and “aah” from the audience, as they feast their eyes on the lavish set.
A curtain of green and yellow threads hangs from the rafters, creating an exquisite Eden-like paradise.
As Sancho Panza, well-known Seattle actor Allen Galli infuses his role with a hearty dose of humor.
With his rubber face and a true talent for physical comedy, Galli makes a memorable sidekick and his antics are a delight to watch.
Another scene-stealer is Jonathan Porretta as Gamache, the wealthy suitor that Kitri’s father has chosen for her.
Though he doesn’t dance in the show, the PNB principal makes a memorable impression as a Spanish dandy, who is vain, petty and self-obsessed.
On opening night, Carla Körbes and Karel Cruz assumed the roles of Kitri and Basilio respectively. The pairing of these two principals was sublime. When they danced together, sparks flew and the chemistry was irresistible.
Körbes is a sensuous performer with an exceptional line and an ability to express a wide variety of emotions. She is fearless and fiery, with an inextinguishable spirit.
Cruz dazzles with his athleticism and magnetic, star-studded qualities. He is a gazelle, leaping across the stage with a hang time that defies gravity and his press lifts with Körbes appeared effortless.
Though this production puts dance front and center, Jerome Kaplan’s dramatic sets and elaborate costume design and James Ingalls’ artistic lighting play equal roles in contributing to its success.
And, of course, there’s the music. The score by Ludwig Minkus is an artful composition and the PNB Orchestra, under the able baton of Emil de Cou, performed it beautifully.
“Don Quixote” is a feast for the senses, which offers a thoroughly engaging theatrical experience for theater and dance-lovers of all ages.
Up next for PNB is “New Works” (March 16-24), with a series of exciting premieres by innovative choreographers David Dawson, Annabelle Lope Ochoa and Victor Quijada, followed by George Balanchine’s masterwork “Apollo” and Kent Stowell’s renowned “Carmina Burana” (April 13-22).
The company’s season concludes with Alexandra Danilova’s and George Balanchine’s beloved “Coppelia” (June 1-10).
For ticket information: (206) 441-2424 or www.pnb.org.