Life & Culture

Don Quixote dance review: The perfect antidote to darker, colder nights

The Royal Ballet's winter season kicks off with some magnificent dancing


Don Quixote
Royal Opera House

The Royal Ballet has opened its winter season at the Royal Opera House with Carlos Acosta’s sunny production of Don Quixote and it is the perfect antidote to colder, darker nights.

If you are looking for a deep and meaningful story, then this three-act ballet is certainly not for you. The potty tale – wacky old man imagines himself a knight in pursuit of the unattainable woman of his dreams, while thwarted lovers find their happy ending – takes second place to the wonderful dancing.

At the performance I saw, Mayara Magri replaced an indisposed Natalia Osipova as the heroine, Kitri. Poor Magri took a nasty tumble not long after her first entrance but she just picked herself up and carried on. By the end of her next solo, she was back to dancing at full power. Her partner on this occasion was Marcelino Sambe. Both are wonderful dancers individually, but I did not detect much chemistry as a couple, though the famous one-handed lifts at the end of Act I drew gasps from the audience: the music stops for what seems like forever while Sambe holds Magri aloft in a picture-perfect moment.

The men stole the show: Sambe was pulling out all the stops with magnificent elevation and Joseph Sissens was a compelling Espada – all eyes are on him whenever he dances.

The stage looks beautiful, with effective designs by Tim Hatley. The sets shift cleverly and the windmill scene is well done (you cannot have Don Quixote without giant windmills). The costumes are ravishing, especially for Kitri and her friend Mercedes (beautifully danced by Mariko Sasaki). Praise too, for Isabella Gasparini as Amour in Act II: she zipped through her speedy solo with ease and looked like she was really enjoying herself. Gary Avis made the most of Don Quixote – there is not that much to do apart from staggering around the stage looking befuddled.

Aside from the accompanying oohs and aahs by the company (how strange it is to hear the dancers’ voices), the music, by Minkus, does not have that much of a Spanish flavour to it. However, there are some wonderful melodies and the final pas de deux is sublime. (I cannot erase memories of John Curry’s skating triumphs whenever I hear it, but that shows my age.)

Several casts will be dancing the lead roles over the next few weeks so if you want a dose of sunshine before winter sets in, go along to the Royal Opera House for some Mediterranean magic.

Don Quixote is at the Royal Opera House until 17 November

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