Hong Kong Ballet's Don Quixote
Hong Kong Ballet
HK Cultural Centre Grand Theatre
Reviewed: Aug 22 and Aug 23 (evening)
Hong Kong Ballet's 2014/15 season opened in style with a sparkling new production of Don Quixote by former Bolshoi stars Nina Ananiashvili and Aleksei Fadeechev.
The sunniest of all classical ballets, Don Quixote has little to do with Cervantes' picaresque masterpiece. The noble if dotty Don plays only a minor role in the story of how Kitri, the innkeeper's feisty daughter, manages to marry her true love Basilio, the dashing if poor young barber, instead of the rich Gamache to whom her father has betrothed her.
Nobody knows Don Quixote better than Ananiashvili, one of the all-time great Kitris and Fadeechev, who has staged it before, notably at the Bolshoi. This production is admirably tailored to fit the Hong Kong Ballet’s resources and local audience tastes without sacrificing authenticity.
The usual three acts have been condensed into two - there are major cuts to some dancing, but the essentials are all there: the story is told clearly and the classical choreography (by Alexander Gorsky after Marius Petipa) is given in full. The result is a fast-paced feast of non-stop dancing, as entertaining for family audiences as it is satisfying to ballet lovers. The concept is well matched by Thomas Mika's designs - bold and colourful, with good, clean lines that enhance the movement.
If there's one thing Don Quixote needs, it's energy - and the ballet's dancers brought that in abundance. There was outstanding solo work from Zhang Siyuan, Li Lin and Naomi Yuzawa, a hilarious Gamache from Jonathan Spigner and an endearingly confused Don Quixote from Kostyantyn Keshyshev.
The first night saw a splendid Basilio from Wei Wei - funny, charismatic and stylishly danced. Liu Yuyao (left, with Wei Wei) made a charming Kitri and, in her first turn as principal, lifted her dancing to a new level. Guest artists Anna Tsygankova and Matthew Golding danced magnificently on the second night, with the effortless virtuosity of true international stars. But the vital thing for the company's future is that the home team did an excellent job.