Sexuality and steel make for a thoroughly effervescent Don
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.
Nicoletta Manni in Teatro alla Scala Ballet Company’s Don Quixote