When State Street Ballet brings Don Quixote to the Granada stage on Saturday, February 20, multiple cultures will converge in a work that’s part Spanish, part French, and all Russian. Marius Petipa, the legendary choreographer responsible for the original, was a native of France with extensive experience in Spain when, in 1869, he set the premiere of Don Quixote on the Ballet of the Imperial Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, Russia. Created by Petipa and Viennese composer Ludwig Minkus at the height of the golden age of the Bolshoi, Don Quixote was revised and expanded by another top ballet master, Alexander Gorsky, in 1900, and it is this version, replete with some of the most challenging maneuvers in all of dance, that we will be seeing this weekend.
Guest artist Aaron Smyth joins the troupe for this performance to reprise the role of Basilio, which he has danced 19 times. If you look for the ballet of Don Quixote on Wikipedia, you will find a photo of Smyth in performance as Basilio. Smyth has been a member of both London’s Royal Ballet and the Joffrey Ballet, but you might also recognize him if you watch America’s Got Talent. He made it as far as the Judge Cuts in season 10, but then he was robbed of well-deserved advancement to the quarterfinals by a much less talented duo, and, yes, my authority on that comes from reading the comments section of YouTube.
Kate Kadow, a young State Street company member, will dance the role of Kitri and partner extensively with Smyth. Kadow was all smiles at a preview rehearsal last Wednesday after finishing a spectacular sequence of fouettés and pirouettes. Don Quixote places a premium on strict classical technique and thus represents something of a departure for State Street, which ordinarily employs a more transitional style that combines classical ballet with contemporary choreography. This is all the more reason to get out and see what this exciting group of dancers can do with one of the peak achievements of the Bolshoi.
State Street Ballet’s innovative outreach program continues to evolve with this production. On Friday, February 19, elementary school students from all over Santa Barbara will get a special interactive theater performance organized by Library Dances founder Cecily Stewart and generously funded by Anne Towbes. The kids will see an interactive preview of the ballet that includes visual instruction highlighting the behind-the-scenes work of the musicians and designers who create the sound and look of the production.
After touring California, New Mexico, Colorado, and New York with choreographer William Soleau’s much-lauded and enduringly popular Carmen in March and April, State Street Ballet will return to Santa Barbara to focus on a new festival format event scheduled for May 14-15 at Ensemble Theatre Company’s New Vic. Dedicated to the memory of Baroness Léni Fé Bland, the festival will feature the work of five contemporary women choreographers, all premieres. The weekend’s centerpiece will be a new work of dance theater based on the diary of Anne Frank and adapted and choreographed by Cecily Stewart.
With señoritas flicking fans and toreadors swirling red capes, Don Quixote is very much a fantasy of Spanish life, yet in its gusto, the ballet succeeds admirably in capturing the questing romantic spirit of Cervantes’s great novel.
Don Quixote plays Saturday, February 20, at the Granada Theatre (1214 State St.). For tickets and information, call 899-2222 or visit granadasb.org.