Forget “Man of La Mancha.” The Joffrey Ballet has mounted a vividly re-imagined version of the epic story by Cervantes.
In this colorful world premiere, Don Quixote remains an aging nobleman dreaming of chivalry, with a bumbling sidekick and a skinny horse. But he is also like Saint Valentine, rescuing a young woman from an arranged marriage and restoring her to her true love. Quixote even flies.
This new story-ballet is choreographed by Yuri Possokhov, former principal at the Bolshoi Ballet, who danced “Don Quixote” many times to choreography by Marius Petipa.
There are two casts for this lavish and very Russian production, which is more than two hours long. On opening night Fabrice Calmels portrayed Quixote, who tilted animated windmill projections that became monsters before our eyes and sent him tumbling through space.
The hilarious Sancho Panza was danced by agile Derrick Agnoletti, complete with stomach pillow, and even Quixote’s faithful steed Rocinante appeared, thanks to Shane Urton and Alberto Velazquez. The supple Victoria Jaiani portrayed Kitri, the girl Quixote champions, and guest artist Carlos Quenedit was her sweetheart, Basilio.
As Quixote recuperates from his battle with the windmills, he dreams of more than a dozen dryads or nymphs dancing in the woods. They are beautiful creatures, with Christine Rocas as the Queen and petite Yumelia Garcia as Amore, a Cupid-like figure who also flies.
With the help of Don Quixote, Kitri and Basilio are wed, but not without numerous dances, including a pas de deux in which the couple outdo each other in leaps and twirls. Jeraldine Mendoza and Amber Neumann are bridesmaids with multiple variations between them.
Peasants dance on any and all occasions, bullfighters and their retinues have vibrant numbers, and Alexis Polito and Temur Suluashvilli are like Carmen and her toreador, but neither of them perish.
The production is all about spectacle and splendor, with sets and lights by Jack Mehler and animated projections by Wendall K. Harrington. The Joffrey, with its deep bench of first class dancers, delivers everything with vigor and panache.
The Chicago Sinfonietta, conducted by Scott Speck, plays the lush and lively score that Austrian composer Ludwig Minkus wrote for Petipa in 1869.
Evening and matinee performances run through October 23 at Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University, 50 E. Congress Parkway. Visit joffrey.org for information and to purchase tickets.