By Tracy Toh
Singapore Dance Theatre opened the 2016 season with the whimsical, fun ballet Don Quixote. Based on the 17th century novel by the Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes, this staging by the SDT finds its place within a larger tradition of productions inspired by the classic work of fiction.
The ballet is centred on the romance between Kitri, a sassy young lady, and Basilio, a poor (but attractive) barber. The romance, of course, is thwarted when Kitri’s father, Lorenzo disapproves of Basilio and attempts to pair her with the rich, supercilious Gamache instead. Among this diverse cast of characters is the visiting bullfighter, Espada, and his sultry partner Mercedes.
There, Spanish influences on the choreography are clear. Espada flourishes daggers and whirling capes with skill, and there is an energetic sequence by the all-male cast of gypsies. But it is the more classical ballet involving Cupid and the dryads that really steals the show. With their beautiful tulle skirts and tutus, their immaculate footwork and execution of the demanding choreography, this sequence is easily the most perfectly synchronised, and the ballerinas are enchanting. The scene is, of course, meant to be enchanting, since it is part of Don Quixote’s dream.
The titular character himself is a bumbling knight with serious delusions of grandeur. He pursues the fictional maiden Dulcinea, and at one point, does battle with a windmill he makes out to be a giant. Yet, he is no less lovable for his many foibles and provides much comic relief, enlivening an already dynamic production.
The elaborate set by designer Bruce McKinven bears mention – the telescopic backdrops of the gypsy camp and the tavern are understated designs which do not detract attention from the dancers, but are memorable in their own right. Against such a set, it is no wonder that Don Quixote is a mainstay of ballet companies’ repertoires, charming audiences well into the 21st century.