- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 4, 2005

Bolshoi Ballet: ‘Don Quixote’Tonight and tomorrowFilene Center, Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts, Vienna

THE COMPANY: Bolshoi means “big” in Russian, and everything about the company fits that bill. Founded in 1776, it numbers 220 dancers at home in Moscow and more than 100 on tour. With a style that is grand and flashy, the company has always appealed to a large audience.

Since the fall of communism, the Bolshoi has been in transition with a heavy turnover of artistic directors, the latest being Alexei Ratmansky, whose modern “Cinderella” for the Kirov Ballet was danced at the Kennedy Center earlier this year. In the meantime, many of the Bolshoi’s Soviet ballets look heavy-handed, and old favorites like “Don Q” are saving the day.

THE HISTORY: “Don Quixote,” very loosely based on Cervantes’ novel of the same name, has been a ballet favorite this year, which marks the 400th anniversary of the Spaniard’s book. The best known version of the ballet is based on a work created in 1869 by the great Marius Petipa.

Its vivid, large-scale choreography, broad humor, Spanish-style dancing and even its tuneful if tacky music by Leon Minkus has made it a favorite ever since.

—THE PLOT: —The Bolshoi’s version largely bypasses the trials and tribulations of Cervantes’ Don. Although he tilts with windmills and his idealistic pursuit of Dulcinea provides the excuse for a lovely vision scene, most of the ballet focuses on the secondary plot of Kitri and Basilio. She’s a village flirt, he’s a barber. They’re among the first commoner sweethearts in classical ballet, and this gives the work ample opportunity for comic turns, touches of slapstick and outbursts of dazzling dance.

WHY SHOULD YOU GO? To see one of the most brilliant comic ballets in the repertoire. To see a company that can project the grandest of gestures and strongest emotions to the far reaches of Wolf Trap’s large amphitheater.

Jean Battey Lewis



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