Also known as the National Ballet of Ukraine, Kiev ballet is a troupe with a rich history (since 1867), and many international stars, such as Alexei Ratmansky, Alina Cojocaru, Irina Dvorovenko, Leonid Sarafanov and Svetlana Zakharova have been nurtured here. Despite their many talents, a lack of financial support and instability in management has caused exodus. Denis Matvienko had to leave his post as Artistic Director in a troubled way last year, and Ekaterina Chebykina, one of their brightest talents, has recently moved to Mariinsky Ballet and will be dancing the role of the Queen of Dryads this month.

But despite their turmoils, Kiev Ballet has being touring extensively in Japan these few years. Their current Japanese tour started in December and will continue till next week with several full length classical ballet performances (Nutcracker, La Bayadere, Classical Highlights Gala, Sleeping Beauty, Don Quixote and Swan Lake). 

Their Don Quixote is based on the Bolshoi Ballet production (by Marius Petipa, Alexander Gorsky and Kasyan Goleizovsky) and revised by Viktor Litvinov. A basic Russian style Don Quixote with few twists or gimmicks, but this time three different couples danced the lead roles in each acts, which added energy and freshness to the performance and showcased their many talents. There was no consistency in the lead character, but Don Quixote is a fun ballet nonetheless, with more focus on bravura and technique than the storyline.

Kitri in the first act was danced by Elena Filipieva, who is currently the only internationally renowned ballerina of the company. Now in her 40's but still vibrant and as looking youthful as ever, Filipieva held the fiery temper of the Spanish girl within the quick accurate turns and light leaps of her solo. She and her partner, Jan Vanya – who is extremely tall but with good ballon, excellent partnering skills and polished technique – were a playful couple, warming up the audience with their warm and happy charm as young lovers.

Kiev Ballet's second act Kitri (and Dulcinea) was danced by Olga Golitsa, a long limbed blonde. With her elegant upper body and musicality, she created a dreamy atmosphere as Queen of Dryads. All the dancers on stage in the vision scene were soundless with their pointes and showed the company's high standard with unified corps de ballet, mostly products of Kiev Ballet School.

In act 3 – here comes the bravura part – Kitri was played by Natalia Matsak, a stunning dark beauty, who displayed her gorgeousness with extremely fast fouettes, including doubles and triples. Denis Nedak as Basilio lifted her effortlessly, and his turns and tours en l'airs were crisp and clean. The stormy excitement of the audience accelerated at the coda when both exaggerated their performance, showing their Spanish passion in their virtuoso spins.

Don Quixote is a ballet taking place in Barcelona, and although Ukranian dancers were performing, they made us feel this was danced by the Spanish. Exotic street dancers, attractive toreadors, and especially the star matador Espada (Sergii Kryvokon) – who fascinates every girl watching him – were passionate, stylish and expressive. Their Spanish blood was on fire at the second act camp scene when Olesia Vorotnuik, the Spanish dancer, performed an alluring and fiery solo, showing the legacy of character dancing in Russian ballet, and the dignity shown in the role of Don Quixote portrayed by Sergii Lytvynenko. The production was a simple touring version but the dedicated performance by the troupe created an energetic and joyful groove on stage.

To emphasize the overall pleasant and glorious performance, the music performed by the National Opera of Ukraine Orchestra under the baton of maestro Oleksii Baklan made for a marvelous atmosphere, making even Minkus's score sound spectacular and dramatic.