Singapore Dance Theatre opened the 2019 season with the whimsical Don Quixote, a classic story by Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes about the titular delusional old knight (Chen Wei), with the main story focusing on a pair of star-crossed lovers, Kitri and Basilio (Chihiro Uchida and Kenya Nakamura respectively).
The premise of the story is a familiar tale: Kitri’s father wants her to wed the wealthy nobleman, Gamache (Jason Carter), but she’s in love with the poor barber, Basilio. Don Quixote weaves himself into the story, being an eccentric old man on a quest for his beloved Dulcinea who ends up helping the two lovers at the end.
There are plenty of Spanish influences in the costume design by Bruce McKinven – starting from Kitri’s red flamenco dress to the female cast’s gitana outfits and the men’s toreador suits, all on beautiful display during Act 1’s ‘A Plaza in Spain’ when the cast are all out dancing merrily to waltzes. Nothing says ‘Spain’ more than the dancing couple of Espada (Etienne Ferrére) and Mercedes (May Yen Cheah), the legendary bullfighter and his sultry partner who light the stage with their presence, daring to outdo the brilliance of Kitri and Basilio with their chemistry.
The entire performance was high energy from start to finish; there was definitely not a lack of a jump or turn – in their many varieties – from both male and female cast members, which is a modern version of the choreography by Marius Petipa (with additional choreography by Cynthia Harvey). The most exciting portion is probably the high octane jumps performed flawlessly by the all-male gypsy cast in Act 2, which is balanced out by the graceful scene from Don Quixote’s dream involving the Dryads and Cupid.
In between the dance sequences, you get to see Don Quixote being hoisted in the air to fight his imaginary ‘dragon’ which was just a windmill, and you also get to see a bit of comedy when Basilio fakes his own death in order to marry Kitri.
There were a couple of tense moments in the beginning – once when Basilio misses a turn during Kitri’s pirouette in their grand pas de deux, and another when she was nearly dropped during Basilio’s second one-handed lift.
Thankfully, by the final Act the performance really picked up pace and almost every performer’s turn was applauded with gusto by the audience. Noteworthy are Kitri and Basilio’s solo performances at the end of Act 3 where they seem to outdo each other with their dizzying number of fouetté turns – enough to raise an applause and cries of ‘bravo!’ before they even finished their turns.
The performance was a joy to watch, especially since it was accompanied by the Metropolitan Festival Orchestra who were performing right at the bottom of the stage, adding depth to the show. By the end of the performance, the enthusiastic – and very long – applause from the audience attests to their love of the production. It’s no wonder that Don Quixote is a mainstay in SDT’s repertoire.