McCaw Hall, Seattle, WA; January 31 2015 (e)

Dean Speer

Welcome to sunny Spain! Allen Galli as Sancho Panza, with Pacific Northwest Ballet in Alexei Ratmansky’s 'Don Quixote'. Photo © Angela Sterling

Welcome to sunny Spain!
Allen Galli as Sancho Panza, with Pacific Northwest Ballet in Alexei Ratmansky’s ‘Don Quixote’.
Photo © Angela Sterling

Blockbuster. Exciting. Energetic. Engaging. Enthralling. Fun and funny. Lively. Slightly silly…and an easy-to-follow story. These are just a few of the words I used to describe Pacific Northwest Ballet’s presentation of Alexei Ratmansky’s “Don Quixote” (made for Dutch National Ballet) to my young 30-something friends and their two boys, all of whom were seeing dance and ballet for the very first time.

I’m happy to report that both boys (ages 5 and 7) were literally on the edge of their chairs throughout – well at least until the five-year-old totally fell asleep partway through Act III. From our seats, they could easily see into the orchestra pit and view the stage. Their parents were thrilled with the show and how engaged their children were. Prior to the show, the youngsters splashed through the water feature that’s right outside the main doors, looked around that foyer, had a bit to eat, and visited the railing overlooking the musicians, before hiking up to our seats.

It helped that they knew in advance about the windmill jousting, a character getting tossed into the air and other neat elements of this show, and asked about these things, wanting to know when they would happen.

While Caleb never woke up to say good-bye, his older brother was still bouncy and happy.

These two clearly gave “Don Q” high marks, as did I.

I was so looking forward to seeing it again, having enjoyed it so much during its last round in the city and if it’s possible to like something more, then that’s the case; certainly I have a deep appreciation and keener eye for the myriad details that have gone into this huge production. Yet, at times, Ratmansky’s choreography very smartly plays the simplicity card which, in itself, can be genius, as when he has the dancers simply strut and show off easy patterns, such as in Act I with their blue fans and multi-colored capes.

Sometimes, though, you just cannot better the original, and the replication and nod to Petipa’s steps and patterns works so well that it’s hard to imagine anything else working better. I love the emboités and the little coupés here and there. I enjoy the mix and match of certain segments – how both composers and choreographers borrow from themselves. One example is one of Kitri’s solo variations – the one with the Italian fouettés into attitude relevé – you can see this exact solo in a film of “Le Corsaire” with the great Margot Fonteyn.

Lindsi Dec as Kitri and her real life husband Karel Cruz as Basilio made a sympathetic and handsome fiery pair, who clearly enjoyed partnering and dancing with each other. This is not always the case with couples, as much as they might love each other. I recall one such couple from Olympia who performed with my student company in Chehalis – man, did they not get along in rehearsals! It was one battle after another, mostly about partnering.

There are two pas de deux for this principal couple, bookending the ballet and Kitri also has the added assignment of appearing in Act II’s ‘ballet blanc’ as one of the Don’s apparitions. Dec more than essayed her assignments with comfortable aplomb, as did Cruz, whose virtuosity razzle-dazzled us. The one-handed balance in Act I thrilled and delighted us every time, practically making me giddy with inner smiles.

Equally outstanding was Carli Samuelson as Cupid, a part that’s very technical and spritely at the same time. I loved the rélevé balances in attitude croisé front with the arms held in a just-so charming pose, right fingers to chin. Admirable too were Sarah Ricard Orza as the Queen of the Dryads floated her amplitude of line and steely technique through Act II’s dream sequence; and our yellow tutu-clad technical heroines, Leta Biasucci and Angelica Generosa as Piccilia and Juanita, who led and gave us some of the best Petipa interpretations.

Play-acting as the bull (Mercedes) and her macho matador (Espada), Carrie Imler and Batkhurel Bold enlivened Act I and III with their playfulness and showmanship. Imler’s dance, bourréeing through knives that are stabbed into the floor is most unusual and fun – a feat in itself.

It was a treat to enjoy Jonathan Porretta as the foppish Gamache, whose wealth does not win over the girl he’s intent on marrying – Kitri. The trickery she and Basilio play on both her father (Uko Gorter) and Gamache to win her hand is one part visual timing and one part brillantly funny. He fakes a suicide, she marries the “corpse” and taa-dah!, suddenly he’s alive and well. Porretta really gets into a character and, in this case, creates a new definition of swashbuckling.

It helps to have a movie star, Tom Skerritt, portray the Don (both on-stage and with promotion). It’s clear that he too enjoys bringing both humor and pathos to this kind but troubled soul. His sidekick, Allen Galli, is especially amusing; stealing not only food but kisses from the village girls and getting tossed up into the air by the men.

The mighty PNB Orchestra gave this neat ballet the bouncy rendition of Minkus et al that buoyed both the performers and us off to merry and sunny, warm Spain.