With Don Quixote’s sleepy-eyed illusions, bumbling friend Sancho Panza, and punctilious valet, we journeyed from Barcelona to the countryside, danced with gypsies, sought true love, and tilted at windmills. In its 10th season, the steadfast and elegant Los Angeles Ballet impressed us with technical achievement, emotional expressivity, musicality, spirit and focus. The choreography was consistently strong, the performance often exquisite, and the storytelling focused. With choreography after Marius Petipa (1869) and Alexander Gorsky (1900), Colleen Neary and Thordal Christensen wove a lively evening of ballet story-telling through classical styling and mime that ranged from bold to delicate, darting to sustained, coquettish to macho, and sneaky to daring.

Julia Cinquemani and Los Angeles Ballet ensemble in <i>Don Quixote</i> © Reed Hutchinson
Julia Cinquemani and Los Angeles Ballet ensemble in Don Quixote
© Reed Hutchinson

The lively townspeople engaged in lively seguidillas and fandangos in the marketplace and tavern, with dazzling figures, woven steps and leaps. Gypsies danced amidst the windmills performing backbends and shoulder shimmies and matadors performed lively dances with capes. The Los Angeles Ballet corps created another world for us. The principal dancers transported us, especially the dancing by Julia Cinquemani, who played Kitri, and her beloved Basilio, played by Kenta Shimizu. Cinquemani’s skill with sustainment, quickness, balance, turns, jumps, precision of timing with music and articulation of details in the body while expressing her emotions was most impressive. Her partner Shimizu performed beautifully executed barrel turns and showed gentle bravado and sensitivity. When partnering, they delivered equipoise of desire and support for each other. Their consistency with accuracy during powerful, direct, strong, fast movements balanced with their ability to engage whimsically with family, friends and suitors.

Julia Cinquemani and Kenta Shimizu in <i>Don Quixote</i> © Reed Hutchinson
Julia Cinquemani and Kenta Shimizu in Don Quixote
© Reed Hutchinson
Supporting characters also resonated. Allyssa Bross was delightful as Mercedes, showing technical proficiency and lively spirit, and Dustin True was captivating and commanding in his small but exciting role as the solo male Gypsy. Surely he will be seen more in the future. Saxon Wood precisely transformed himself into Lorenzo, Kitri’s father, so well that I believed he was indeed much older than his years. Don Quixote, played by Adam Lüders, and Panza, played by David Renaud, were endearing with their misguided adventures and confused interactions each time they appeared. I felt their roles could have been made bolder, even campier, to balance the strong dancing throughout the evening.

While the solo variations were most impressive, the choreography and performance in the “Enchanted Garden of Dulcinea” was my favorite scene. Kitri, the Queen of the Dryads, played by Bianca Bulle, and Amor, played by SarahAnne Perel performed an enchanting trio, yet each of the dancers brought her own distinct quality to her enchanting message. Cinquimani displayed clear lines and timing, Bulle shared elegant sensuality, and Perel revealed a sparkly twinkle of lightness. The group choreography in this scene mesmerized with unison flow in a triangle formation that gave a feeling that the dream could go on forever in flux, and it did, even as the scene changed. It transported us into another realm.

The richly detailed, warm-toned costumes and set by Nicholas Georgiadas, courtesy of Boston Ballet, situated us in a warm and yet foggy season in Spain. Lighting by Tyler Lambert-Perkins coordinated with the set and costumes and helped frame the moods of the ballet. The production quality was high, yet at least four dancers lost footing on a slick section of marley upstage right, Fortunately, no one fell to the floor or appeared to be injured, but it was disconcerting for the dancers.

Julia Cinquemani and Los Angeles Ballet ensemble in <i>Don Quixote</i> © Reed Hutchinson
Julia Cinquemani and Los Angeles Ballet ensemble in Don Quixote
© Reed Hutchinson

Having a resident ballet company of this caliber in Los Angeles for ten years is a major achievement about which Los Angeles residents couldn’t be more pleased. Having said that, while the expense of live orchestral music would surely be exorbitant in today’s economy, it must be noted that Ludwig Minkus and Riccardo Drigo’s music, even with the high production quality of the venue’s sound system, sounded rather flat and mechanical. The quality of Los Angeles Ballet’s work is high enough that it warrants live music. Now bring on the donors, Los Angeles – the Los Angeles Ballet and its fans deserve live music.

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