American Ballet Theatre closes its run at the Kennedy Center with the resplendent “Don Quixote,” fantastically staged by artistic director Kevin McKenzie and Regisseur Susan Jones. A classical ballet with a long history, this staging is playful, romantic, and vivacious, with a little something for ballet-lovers of all ages.
Though the origins of the ballet go back to the late 19th century (it is based on a 17th century story by Miguel de Cervantes), ABT’s staging debuted in 1995. Don Quixote (Clinton Luckett), a dreamer who fancies himself a chivalrous knight, and his squire, Sancho Panza (Javier Rivet), wander the Spanish countryside, searching for an object for Quixote’s chivalric duties. They find it in a town where resides Kitri (Isabella Boylston), a young woman who loves Basilio (Daniil Simkin), a local barber. Their love is, of course, rejected by Kitri’s father, Lorenzo (Roman Zhurbin), who wants her to marry the nobleman, Gamache (Luis Ribargorda).
…playful, romantic, and vivacious, with a little something for ballet-lovers of all ages.
All of this plot is efficiently set up in ABT’s production, leaving much of the focus on Kitri and Basilio’s playful and flirtatious dancing. These interludes are complemented by the arrival of the matador, Espada (Thomas Forster), and his lady, Mercedes (Devon Teuscher), outfitted in glittering gold and black (costumes by Santo Loquasto). Their dances together, and with his toreadors, are appropriately dramatic and daring. The watching villagers’ use of tambourines, clapping and snapping to encourage the dancers makes the set-pieces feel spontaneous and intimate.
Production design is key for a ballet of this scope, and ABT’s Santo Loquasto delivers with several gorgeous scene changes, including a trip to the forest as Kitri and Basilio run away together, with Don Quixote not far behind. A dream, brought on by a knock on the head, finds Quixote in a haunting landscape, complete with a rustic windmill and populated by peaceful woodland nymphs.
McKenzie and Jones’ staging moves breezily, making the two-hour runtime feel short. The final act sees some of the most phenomenal dancing, especially from the company’s principal Simkin, who brings wonderful charisma to the mischievous, and ultimately triumphant, Basilio.
Running time: Approximately two hours and 16 minutes with two intermissions.
“Don Quixote” runs through April 3 at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, 2700 F St NW, Washington, DC 20566. For more information and tickets, click here. Proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 and a valid photo ID are required to attend all indoor performances and events at the Kennedy Center. Read MD Theatre Guide’s review of “ABT Forward” here.