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The Joffrey's 'Quixote' is a trip to the glory days

10.13.11
Joffrey Ballet
Chicago Tribune

By Sid Smith

With "Don Quixote," the Joffrey Ballet recalls the glory days of Robert Joffrey, serving up a fresh new take on a classic, one tailored to suit the company's size but second to none in rapid-fire entertainment and nonstop dance.

Yuri Possokhov, the onetime Bolshoi Ballet dancer who is now resident choreographer with the San Francisco Ballet, delivers plenty of trademark fireworks, but stages the story with something of the comic surety and jet propulsion of John Cranko, a Joffrey favorite. "Don Q" has always been the oddest of artistic ducks, resembling a lighthearted MGM musical more than Cervantes' landmark novel. Don Quixote himself and sidekick Sancho Panza are comic figures, hardly visible in some productions. While trimming the ballet to two acts, Possokhov heightens their roles and impact. They're still funny, but more central and sympathetic.

Just as importantly, the production is a marvel of various design contributions, notably Wendall Harrington's understated but picture-perfect projections, Von Orthal Puppets' delightful, Kermit Love-like horse contraption and the dazzling flight routine lifting Don Quixote into the arms of a windmill. Thanks to Harrington and her smoky, forest setting, the Dryads scene was more atmospheric and effective than usual.

But ultimately "Don Quixote" is dancing, and this one doesn't let up, relishing the tambourine zeal and Spanish flavor of Ludwig Minkus' score. Wednesday's opening cast sizzled. Victoria Jaiani is magnificent as Kitri, sparkling, kittenish and technically on fire. Oh, some hops on point ended abruptly in Act I, and the merciless balances demanded in Act II challenged her a bit, as they would most dancers. But her subsequent whipping turns seemed a new career high in firepower, and she nails Kitri as a dancer not just surviving her chores but enjoying every minute of them.

Cheers all around for charismatic Carlos Quenedit. Catch him if you can, too boyish, maybe, to convey all of Basilio's rakish deviltry, but a vibrant, technically exhilarating dancer.

Fabrice Calmels brings stature and poignancy to Don Quixote; Derrick Agnoletti channels Curly from the Three Stooges as a wonderfully slapstick Sancho; and Matthew Adamczyk is one of the funniest Restoration fops ever, in pink, no less.