This Iconic Ballet Is Considered the Romantic Comedy of the Art Form

Why the 'Don Quixote' ballet is as iconic as the novel.

Giselle can easily be considered the ballet world’s great tragedy, while The Nutcracker it’s best seasonal performance. Among the ranks of these iconic ballets is Don Quixote, taking its place as the art form’s version of a romantic comedy for its amusing and light plot and lively choreography. Ever since Marius Petipa’s choreography popularized the staging of Miguel de Cervantes’s classic novel of the same name, Don Q’s dances have become a ubiquitous entry in every season of most ballet companies around the world. But what’s in its formula that makes the literary work a balletomane’s favorite? Below, we list some of its best qualities:

The ballet’s cast of characters equates to an interesting on-stage dynamic.

Don Quixote, an eccentric knight with a wild imagination and vivid dreams stars throughout the two acts. There’s also Kitri, the vivacious daughter of the innkeeper, and her beloved Basilio, the dashing town barber who yearns to receive Kitri’s father’s approval. The titular character helps Kitri and Basilio find love in his own way. Suffice to say, it’s not the average forbidden love story. The ballet allows us a peek into the lives of some of de Cervantes's unconventional characters, all revolving around Don Quixote’s adventurous quests.

Victor Maguad as Basilio and Monica Gana as Kitri

It’s not difficult to understand.

First-time ballet goers need not fret over trying to understand the story. “The storyline is simple to follow,” says associate atistic director of Ballet Philippines Adam Sage, who currently serves as regisseur (or restager) of the company’s upcoming production. “For first-timers and younger audiences, it’s interesting to follow… It’s not long and drawn out and you don’t have to concentrate that hard to figure out what’s [going on.]”

Coming full-circle, Sage began working with Ballet Philippines when he played the ballet’s namesake at the age of 19 and has returned to restage the production.

The ballet is an immersion into the Spanish culture.

Everything from the matador costumes to the Barcelona-inspired marketplace to the use of fans throughout the ballet gives the production a genuine charm through the prevalence of Spanish culture.

Ballet Philippines takes that immersion up a notch by providing a pre-show tapas bar on select evening performances of its upcoming Don Quixote production. This option entitles guests to Spanish wine and tapas prior to the show.

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Jemima Reyes as Kitri

The clever use of props adds to the overall merriment.  

A challenge for all the female dancers in Don Q would have to be the mastery of the fan. The fan in the ballet is a tool used to convey emotions, as well as contribute to the flair of movement.

During the dance of the matadors, the ensemble prances to the music of tambourines and an all-male group dances to the earlier stages of a bullfight scene using capes. One of the most beguiling scenes is when Mercedes performs her solo, dancing around chalices (or in other versions, bottles are used), scattered before her as she gracefully tiptoes and twirls around it.

Each restaging is different each time.

The cast of dancers will always present something new to the ballet. Likewise, the Philippine restaging of the ballet will differ from Petipa’s production, even if the choreography is based on the 1869 version initially staged in Moscow. Coming from the restager himself, Sage says the biggest quantifier will be the dancers themselves. “Each person who does Kitri, Giselle, or Odette brings something of themselves. Their own personal flavor, their mark on it,” he comments.

Guest artist Joseph Gatti

Ballet Philippines’ Don Quixotes runs from February 9-18 at the CCP Main Theater. Special gala performances with guest artist Joseph Gatti as Don Quixote and the Manila Symphony Orchestra are on February 9, 8 p.m., and February 10, 7 p.m. For tickets, visit Ticketworld.com.ph or call 891.9999.

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