The American Ballet Theater performs “Don Quixote”

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With its myriad of acrobatic feats – one arm lifts! vertiginous whipping tricks! — “Don Quixote” could go from a theater to a circus tent without wasting time. Tuesday night at the Metropolitan Opera House, American Ballet Theater began its spring season with the company’s well-worn 1995 release, a dizzying fireworks show staged by Kevin McKenzie and Susan Jones.

“Don Quixote”, set to music by Ludwig Minkus, is not the ballet you want to see repeatedly. Frankly, it’s not even the right ballet for a world-class company to start its season. At least the opening night cast took him back to the realm of ballet — or tried.

Isn’t there something intrinsically noble about Polina Semionova and Marcelo Gomes? Even in this garish setting of toreadors and gypsies, they retain the best of their dance: the ballet does not serve their technique; their technique serves the ballet.

Credit…Karsten Moran for The New York Times

Kitri, the spunky, strong-willed heroine, isn’t quite a match for Ms. Semionova, whose long lines and willowy demeanor barely scream spit; she is more sunny than sexy. But with Mr Gomes as his Basilio – a handsome and financially strained young barber who, despite odds, has won Kitri’s heart – they go from flirting to love like nimble actors in a goofy comedy. It’s in witty blink-and-miss-you detail: After Mr. Gomes lifted his guitar in Ms. Semionova’s face, she lowered it with a withered look and leaned in just in time to avoid a kiss.

But they dance well together too: Their Kitri-Basilio is less a pyrotechnic contest than a separation and union of wills. In the first act, Ms. Semionova’s best moment came after her diagonal turns, punctuated with a heel rise and fall, when she came to an abrupt stop. Standing on point and leaning towards Mr Gomes, although just out of reach, she was her own version of Kitri: sophisticated, provocative and with a touch of cheeky.

Once the pair decide to get involved, the rest of “Don Quixote” revolves around Kitri trying to convince her father, Lorenzo (a hilariously confused Roman Zhurbin), to grant his blessing even though he wants her. marry the wealthy Gamache (Craig Salstein). With the help of matador Espada (Jared Matthews) and Mercedes (Hee Seo), a street dancer who later appears as Queen of the Dryads, they escape to a gypsy camp where Don Quixote (Victor Barbee) dreams. of his ideal wife, Dulcinea. .

In the vision scene, ballerinas dominate the scene, including a bubbly Sarah Lane, as Love, and Mrs. Semionova, clearly in her domain. As Ms. Seo’s dance grew more and more tense—she stumbled toward the end of her spinning whippings—Ms. Semionova’s became creamier, pitting light footwork against regal shouldering.

When Mr. Matthews and Ms. Seo, now Mercedes, returned in the third act, their dancing was just as vaporous as before; there was no brilliance, no sensuality. But these qualities were in force in Mr. Gomes who, despite the typical Ballet Theater tempo – soupy – used the dignity of his line and the ardor of his partnership to transform Basilio from a boy into a man.


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