April 21, 2014

Q Is for Quixote (as in Don)

Many ballets deal with serious subjects — Giselle, Swan Lake, Romeo & Juliet, Manon, etc. So it is cool when an evening at the ballet is just plain fun.

Don Quixote is one of the liveliest and most popular of the "fun" ballets. The story makes marginal sense, the music is accessible, and the characters human rather than the stuff of fairy tales and myth. 


For those of you familiar with the Cervantes' novel or even with the Broadway musical Man of La Mancha, you can pretty much check those at the door. Don Quixote and Sancho Panza feature in the ballet as secondary characters, window dressing wandering through the scenes in between all the dancing. 

Elena Shokhina as Kitri in
Nevada Ballet Theatre’s 
Don Quixote
Photo by Jeff Speer
Mostly the story is about a village girl named Kitri and her barber boyfriend Basilio. Unfortunately, Kitri's father has plans for her — and they don't include Basilio. So the two run off with Don Q. and Sancho to a gypsy camp in the forest where we get to see a lot of backbendy Spanish dancing. Some arguments, some things mistaken for a windmill, and Don Quixote collapses. He does this because he has to have a special dream — one where all the same dancers from the first act have different costumes.

Kitri's dad finally shows up, and boy is he angry. Kitri and Basil are clever, though, and through trickery, manage to get him to bless their union. (I told you the plot made no sense.)

At this point in some productions, the local Duke and Duchess get involved. They let the young couple get married at their palace, which is another great excuse for new costumes and sets for the entire cast. In these days of budget cuts, however, often everyone goes back to the original village scene and costumes from Act I. 

Happy ending, and everyone gets to dance at the party. Audience now goes home humming the choreography.


First, because it is fun. Second (and this is for the guys), you get to see a lot of really cute girls dancing around in flirty costumes — and your date won't punch you for staring — plus, on top of all that, you get points for taking her to the ballet.

Additionally, if you are a dance fan, there is a lot of music and a lot of little parts. So you get to see many different dancers perform in smaller groups and even dance solos. Always fun to watch talent come up from the corps de ballet. 

Here is a clip from a performance by my favorite Kitri, Maya Plisetskaya. Besides terrific technique, her Kitri is a total ball of fire. She is so "real." (I love the run at 5:19.) And for those who may wonder, I saw her perform this live, and yes, she was that fast. 


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