Review: Joffrey Ballet Shines with the Exuberance of Spain in Don Quixote

Don Quixote de la Mancha by Miguel Cervantes is considered the most important and famous novel from Spain. It has been translated into the musical Man of La Mancha with the title character portrayed as having a madman’s fantasy among other interpretations. The Joffrey Ballet brings all of the archetypes from Cervantes’ novel to life. This beautiful performance shows why the Joffrey is enshrined with other great companies such as Alvin Ailey and the American Ballet Theatre. Choreographed by Yuri Possokhov, Don Quixote is a story of a hero’s journey with matadors, beautiful women, and a knight who sees a local girl as the embodiment of the most beautiful woman he has ever imagined. He has named her Dulcinea, and believes that it is his quest to do the honorable thing and lead her on the path to true love.

Miguel Angel Blanco and Derrick Angoletti. Photo by Cheryl Mann.

Quixote is played by Miguel Angel Blanco. His role does not require much in the way of dance but Blanco’s gestures and expressions are exquisite as the lovelorn knight looking for adventure. Sancho Panza is played by retiring ensemble member Derrick Angoletti with grace and a healthy dose of Harpo Marx comic flair. They set off on a journey to slay dragons with the horse Rocinante, and arrive in the town where the knight will meet his Dulcinea in the form of Kitri (Victoria Jaiani) and her true love Basilio (Dylan Gutierrez). Jaiani and Gutierrez are in top form and have real chemistry. Jaiani leaps into the air and lands like a feather with no sound from the weight in her pointe shoes. She inhabits the sass and rebellious spirit of the girl who refuses to agree to a marriage arranged by her father, the innkeeper Lorenzo (Raúl Casasola), to the wealthy Gamache (Fernando Duarte).

Dylan Gutierrez and Victoria Jaiani. Photo by Cheryl Mann.

Duarte is hilarious as the foppish Gamache done up in powder, red wig, and lacy sleeves. Costume designer Travis Halsey perfectly captures the excesses of the noble attire of past centuries. The toreador Espada (Stefan Galcavez) is also beautifully costumed by Halsey. Galcavez makes the dance look effortless even though there is intricate muscle movement in each flourish and step. Staging is done really well by the team of Nicolas Blanc, Adam Blyde, Anastacia Holden, and Suzanne Lopez. Every corner of the stage is filled with color and movement but does not detract from the central action. Don Quixote is scored by Austrian composer Ludwig Minkus (1826-1917), and was first performed by the Bolshoi Ballet in 1869. The score is the perfect and energetic accompaniment played by the Lyric Opera Orchestra.

Stefan Goncalvez. Photo by Cheryl Mann.

The Lyric Opera House is a perfect place to stage Don Quixote as it is known for exquisite stage craft. The scene where Don Quixote fights the windmills thrilled the audience. The visual projections by Wendall Harrington turn the windmills into Don Quixote’s imagined dragons. There was an audible gasp from the audience when Quixote is lifted into the air, spun around, and flung to the ground. The aerial stunts are from Flying by Floy and blended in well with the projections to stage a well-known scene from the play and the ballet. In all, this was a wonderful evening at the ballet. The athleticism and elegance of the Joffrey Ballet is known worldwide and it is pretty cool that they call Chicago home. Go and see this classic ballet. Prepare to be awed by the beauty of the human form, glorious music, and a romantic tale that has spanned centuries and inspired many.

Don Quixote runs 2.5 hours with two intermissions. The ballet plays through June 12 at the Lyric Opera House, 20 N Wacker Dr. Tickets range from $35 to $172. Masks and proof of vaccination against Covid are required for entrance to the Lyric. Masks must remain over your mouth and nose inside the building. The arts are important to our cultural recovery so mask up! Keep the artists, audience, and yourself healthy.

For more information on this and other productions, see www.theatreinchicago.com.

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Kathy D. Hey

Kathy D. Hey writes creative non-fiction essays. A lifelong Chicagoan, she is enjoying life with her husband, daughter and three dogs in the wilds of Edgewater. When she isn’t at her computer, she is in her garden growing vegetables and herbs for kitchen witchery.