Sex­u­al­ity and steel make for a thor­oughly ef­fer­ves­cent Don

The Australian - - ARTS - CAMERON PEGG

DANCE Don Quixote Teatro alla Scala Bal­let Com­pany. Lyric The­atre, Queens­land Per­form­ing Arts Cen­tre, Bris­bane, Novem­ber 7.

Ru­dolf Nureyev’s Don Quixote has a proud an­tipodean his­tory. The great dancer-chore­og­ra­pher mounted his pro­duc­tion on the Aus­tralian Bal­let in 1970 be­fore mem­o­rably film­ing it in a Mel­bourne air­port hangar (di­rect­ing the project him­self, nat­u­rally). Mul­ti­ple com­pa­nies took the work into their reper­toire, in­clud­ing Mi­lan’s Teatro alla Scala, per- form­ing in Aus­tralia for the first time.

It’s a good start when the scenic de­sign draws re­peated ap­plause. Win­ning, too, is Ni­co­letta Manni’s fe­male lead. Hers is a Kitri to savour — a young woman en­tirely sure of her sex­ual en­ergy, danc­ing openly in the mar­ket square with boyfriend Basilio (Leonid Sarafanov), de­spite her fa­ther’s protests. Mar­ried off for money to the dandy Ga­mache? Not on your life.

There is steel in Manni’s arabesque, but it is her ex­pan­sive up­per body and highly ar­tic­u­late arms that frame the ac­tion. In the third act she traces taut, lin­ger­ing lines in the cer­e­mo­nial pas de deux. The fa­mous fou­ettes are ac­quit­ted well, with­out be­ing a show­stop­per.

Guest-ap­pear­ing with the com­pany, Sarafanov is a safe pair of hands for a role Nureyev re­de­fined. A few laboured early lifts aside, he has the mea­sure of the multi-di­rec­tional pirou­ettes, ex­plo­sive aerial work and quick-fire bat­terie. Just as im­por­tant, he seems to be en­joy­ing him­self.

As Queen of Dryades, Maria Ce­leste Losa uses her ex­em­plary ex­ten­sion to great ef­fect. Her grand jetes pos­i­tively gal­lop, peak­ing right at the top of the leap.

In frosted blues and greens, the dream se­quence is a stylis­tic coun­ter­point to the rous­ing mar­ket and tav­ern scenes (and a glimpse at the com­pany’s Giselle, open­ing next week).

Nureyev was a mas­ter of draw­ing fo­cus and hold­ing it. In this adap­ta­tion, our de­luded knight and his ac­ci­den­tal squire play their part to shep­herd the ac­tion but do not up­stage it.

The folk­loric se­quences are ex­cel­lent, al­low­ing the dancers to ex­plore dis­tinc­tive, well-drawn vo­cab­u­lar­ies. As the Act Two gypsy soloist, Mat­tia Sem­per­boni at­tacks the Cos­sack-in­spired chore­og­ra­phy with rel­ish.

Across the corps and through­out the soloists there are pleas­ing, con­sis­tent lines. More im­pres­sive, how­ever, is the clear unity of pur­pose. This is not an aca­demic com­pany but an ef­fer­ves­cent one. Highly mu­si­cal, too.

In his Don Quixote, Nureyev re­minds us that life is sweet and fun. This is a phi­los­o­phy that Italy’s top bal­let com­pany not only un­der­stands but also em­braces.

Tick­ets: $79-$209. Book­ings: on­line. Du­ra­tion: 2hr 45min, with two in­ter­vals. Un­til Novem­ber 17.

DAR­REN THOMAS

Ni­co­letta Manni in Teatro alla Scala Bal­let Com­pany’s Don Quixote

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