Miguel Cervantes’ epic novel Don Quixote was brought to life by the Singapore Dance Theatre as their grand finale of 2014. The whimsical ballet – first performed in 1869 for the Bolshoi Ballet – featured plenty of brilliant dance sequences from the 2 leads, Kitri and Basilio (performed by Chihiro Uchida and Kenya Nakamura respectively as the second cast).
Don Quixote is a story about a delusional knight who journeys with his squire in search of his beloved Dulcinea. Along the way, they meet a couple – Kitri, an innkeeper’s daughter, and Basilio, a humble barber – on the run from her father, who wants her to marry the elderly nobleman, Gamache.
Beginning with a prologue that set the stage for Don Quixote’s quest for his beloved Dulcinea, the first major scene opened with a lively and colourful performance at a Spanish plaza where we see both Kitri and Basilio flirting about with solos and duets, sequenced between group dances involving castanets and tambourines. This portion was more like a Spanish drama than a ballet – the dances, the costumes, the stage, the even the flirtatious nature of the leads. Here we are introduced to Kitri’s father Lorenzo (Yann Ek), and the pompous, overly made-up Gamache (Jason Carter).
Act 2 featured a lively sequence of gypsy dances, with the stage belonging to the Gypsy King (Kensuke Yorozu). This is also the famous windmill scene, where Don Quixote shows up and battles his imaginary dragon. It’s also a dramatic portion of the performance when he is hoisted up on a rig as he slashes away at the windmill – it was a pity that the rig restricted his movements, and the lighting was rather dark.
Don Quixote’s dream sequence – with Dryads and Cupid – was a visually pleasing interlude before the colourful tavern scene in Act 3. Here, the stage was cleverly designed to gave it depth, and Basilio manages to shine with his comedic timing as he fakes his own death, thus forcing Lorenzo to allow the couple to marry.
The final scene (the wedding) was a showcase for both lead dancers to perform their most impressive sequences of the night. It was as if both were trying to outdo each other with dizzying pirouettes.
The limelight belonged to Uchida, as she gracefully glided and pirouetted her way across the stage as Kitri, while Nakamura managed to impress the crowd with his technicality. Chen Wei portrayed Don Quixote as a rather dreamy character, and Mohamed Noor Sarman played the role of Don’s faithful servant, Sancho, with a strange childlike cheekiness.
While Don Quixote is known for its flamboyant choreography and extravagant back-bends, SDT’s performance is a tamer rendition. Nevertheless, it was an enjoyable performance staged by Cynthia Harvey that packed in comedy, drama and plenty of jumps and pirouettes in the 2 hour performance.