The Spanish are known for their passion. In fact, a study by the University of the Balearic Islands showed that 80% of respondents “prefer love to be passionate.” And because links have been found between dancing and sex, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that the Spanish also show a certain kind of vigor when it comes to dancing. This was evident in Don Quixote, the ballet staged by the prestigious Ballet Manila.
The ballet Don Quixote is based on the 1605 and 1615 Miguel de Cervantes novel Don Quixote, which follows the adventures of nobleman Alonso Quixano, who becomes obsessed with social justice and goes on a series of quests to dispense it. Most of the injustices he see are imaginary, but the novel has become so well-loved that it has become the most influential Spanish novel ever written.
It was adapted into ballet in 1869, with choreography by Marius Petipa and music by Ludwig Minkus, at the Ballet of the Imperial Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, Russia. The ballet focuses on the adventure of one Don Quixote, who is searching for Lady Dulcinea, a lover that he only imagines in his head. It also features the love story between Kitri and Basilio, a couple Don Quixote encounters in his travels.
The ballet has become one of the most challenging ballet pieces ever created, with one key moment being Kitri’s legendary 32 fouettes, which the ballerina must perform in a row. Fouettes are swift, whipping movements of the raised leg accompanying a pirouette, or the act of spinning on one foot.
I was able to watch Ballet Manila principal Katherine Barkman, and Kremlin Ballet Theater star and principal danseur Mikhail Martynyuk perform as Kitri and Basilio, and I was left #shookt at how brilliant they were. I have always associated ballet as a precise art, but the two gave a fiery performance that didn’t even bother with exactitude, moving through the stage with such reckless abandon that it almost moved me to tears.
Barkman was outstanding as Kitri, but Martynyuk dazzled as Basilio. He leapt through the air as if he weighed nothing, kicking his legs up in the air and spinning on stage as if it were the most natural thing in the world. He did everything with a smile, which made me feel that I could do it, too.
The set and wardrobe was also a thing of beauty. Ballet Manila went all out, decorating the stage with a charming plaza that recalled the sun-soaked courtyards of Barcelona. As for the wardrobe, Barkman’s red dress was the highlight, which made her look like a fireball dancing through the stage.
Don Quixote is Ballet Manila’s final show for its 21st season, called Revenge of the Classics. It is a fitting finale, as company CEO and artistic director Lisa Macuja-Elizalde shot to worldwide fame when she performed the spellbinding role of Kitri as principal dancer at the Kirov Ballet in Russia in 1986. To date, Kitri is Macuja-Elizalde’s most performed role, having performed her 56th and last Kitri in 2012 for Ballet Manila.
This year, Macuja-Elizalde hands over the role of Kitri to Barkman, and principal Dawna Reign Mangahas and soloist Pia Dames. Based on what I saw in that performance, it looks like Don Quixote is in good hands.
Ballet Manila’s Don Quixote was staged from February 24 and 25 at 8PM, and on February 26 at 3PM at the Aliw Theater. For tickets, visit www.balletmanila.com.ph or follow Ballet Manila on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.