The first thing you will notice about WA Ballet’s production of Don Quixote is the colours. Things are preposterously vibrant, like an enormous fauvist painting being whirled around the stage. The costumes by Allan Lees meet the lighting by Jon Buswell to bathe the whole thing in sparkling detail.
The vibrancy of the outfits is matched by their characters. Don Quixote himself is played by Christian Luck, silver-haired and lightly armoured. Luck glides over the stage likes as the august knight, commanding the attention of everyone he passes. André Santos provides a comic counterpoint as the foppish Gamache, twirling around Kitri in a bloated emerald suit.
Other characters are bright without being clownish. Oscar Valdés is perhaps the most impressive dancer, exhibiting pure athleticism as the lead Gypsy. Gakuro Matsui as Basilio joins Chihiro Nomura as Kitri at the centre of the narrative. Nomura works in enchanting movements, causing everyone in the theatre to fall in love with her in a few glorious arabesques. It isn’t hard to see why Basilio falls for it. Their duets have an incredible romance to them, and the show takes its magnetic core from their pairing.
Lucette Aldous choreographed the show, adapting it from the Petipa original. Aldous is no stranger to the work, having played Kitri alongside Rudolf Nureyev in 1973 for a filmed production by the Australian Ballet. Her familiarity here is important, given Don Quixote is notoriously difficult to choreograph. In choosing to produce it, the WA Ballet took a calculated risk. With Aldous, things are in safe hands.
There’s so much frivolity here, it’s tempting to forget to revel in the skill of it all. Aldous builds the body language from startlingly subtle movements. Every character in the corps de ballet is their own personage, reacting around each other. Things begin between lovers, but then they expand. The couples find couples, and the street scenes flower up into crowded, magisterial riots. Everything retains an extraordinary synchronicity, built on the technical ability of each of the dancers.
But the show operates even outside of these romantic carousals. To close the first act, Don Quixote meets with three dryads in a dream. The crystal colours are traded in for monochromatics, and Quixote slides around with each of them in the moonlight. The scene is so intimate that you feel you should avert your eyes. But you can’t— the dancing is too good, and you want to see if he convinces one of them to fall in love with him.
For all its ornamentation, this show must be about Don Quixote, the bookish knight in his later years, gracious but slightly mad. The ballet feels like his plangent descent towards retirement. But with fading out, the colours shine more brightly, and we see him revel in a final flood of dancing. Go to the show. Take someone you love. See the world as he does, blazing before it ends.
Words by Harry Peter Sanderson
Don Quixote is at His Majesty’s theatre until the 27th of May. Find tickets here.