Australian Ballet performs a confident 'Don Quixote'

October 15, 1994|By J. L. Conklin | J. L. Conklin,Special to The Sun

In its performance of the late Rudolf Nureyev's light-hearted ballet "Don Quixote" Wednesday night, the Australian Ballet demonstrated confident artistry.

Although Nureyev's three-act ballet was over-stuffed with slapstick humor and predictable choreographic structures, the company presented a thoroughly enjoyable evening of classical

ballet.

This production, with its fine set design by Anne Fraser and music by Ludwig Minkus, revolved mainly around two lovers, Kitri and Basilio, danced with finesse by Lisa Bolte and Li Cunxin. Mr. Nureyev placed his hero (Stephen Baynes) and his faithful sidekick, Sancho Panza (Mark Kay), obliquely to the romance that is the core of this ballet.

Ms. Bolte displayed a genuine spirit in her dancing and first-rate technical abilities. Even in the most difficult steps, her control was impressive. Mr. Cunxin was equally adept in his role.

The first act was filled with vaudevillian humor that depended on the fine-tuned skills of Mr. Baynes and Mr. Kay to sway the audience with their dog-eared charm. Mr. Baynes' Don Quixote is shown as a man stumbling through his dreams, but rather than feeling pathos we laugh at him.

Thematically, Don Quixote's quest is presented as a joke. The exception is the beautiful Scene Two in the second act, in which the hero hallucinates his ideal heroine, Dulcinea, accompanied by mythological personas.

The problem with this ballet is that there was little dramatic contrast in the structure of the choreography and in the story's presentation. Both Don Quixote and Gamache, the wealthy nobleman who wants to marry the spirited Kitri (danced by Colin Peasley), are buffoons. In this ballet, the real hero is the impetuous Basilio, who bluffs his suicide in order to get his greedy father-in-law's blessing.

But it was the predictable pattern of pas de deux and group dances that stifled this ballet more than any plot or character development. Most noticeably in the first act, the work see-sawed between the two forms. Even by adding a third party to the opening pas de deux didn't alleviate the dogmatic feel of the dance.

While individual dances are filled with inventive, often challenging steps, the overall effect is dissipated when the dances are placed back to back.

Fortunately, this personable and talented company will be presenting a fresh program of mixed works by Australian choreographers this weekend.

DANCE REVIEW

What: Australian Ballet

Where: Kennedy Center Opera House, Washington

When: 8 tonight; 2 p.m. today and tomorrow

Ticket: $27.50 to $60.50

Call: (202) 467-4600

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