Atlanta Ballet has been sitting on a gem, just waiting to unleash its artistic wrath on patrons for the start of February. Don Quixote is by far the most fun I’ve ever had at a ballet in recent memory. The magic of ballet is that a story can be told without words, messages are sent without a voice, and the myriad of feelings and emotions that take place when the two are executed in sync.
The ballet Don Quixote is a presentation of the Spanish novel “The Ingenious Nobleman Sir Quixote of La Mancha” by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra. As the story is told, Alonso Quixano reads so many chivalric romances that he loses his sanity and decides to set out to revive chivalry, undo wrongs, and bring justice to the world, under the name Don Quixote de la Mancha. Along with his faithful squire, a farmer named Sancho Panza, set out on adventures in both reality and imagination.
In this performance, Don Quixote (Nathan Griswold) and Sancho Panza (Jared Tan) find themselves at the helm of a Casanova-like barber named Basilio (Sergio Masero-Olarte). After getting a fresh shave they go on their way while Basilio heads to town. In town is where he finds his beloved Kitri (Erica Alvarado), the daughter of an Innkeeper (Armando Luna) who has already arranged for her to marry a very audaciously dressed Gamache (Jacob Bush).
As I sat back and watched Basilio outsmart and outclass his rival as well as Kitri’s father, I was taken aback by what I noticed: laughter. You could literally feel the entire theatre enjoying the performance. Everywhere I looked, I saw smiling faces and heard laughter from theatre vets like myself to the first-timers that were sitting behind me. It was a beautiful thing to behold. Sergio on his own was top-class but his onstage presence with Erica was outmatched. I have never witnessed a more perfect pairing than the two of them for Don Quixote. It was a privilege to witness.
Jared was an amazing Sancho Panza. I have never laughed so much or so hard through a ballet in my life. The overdramatic squire knew just how to handle the Don when he got out of line but for some reason couldn’t avoid the teasing from the townspeople. That teasing and copious hijinx coupled with the in-your-face antics of Jacob (as Gamache) made for an extremely entertaining night.
As a child, I was not familiar with the story of this Spanish gent. But I was quite familiar with his furry version that was made for TV. The four things they have in common: The Don, Sancho, a noble steed, and illusions. So in the ballet (and this video), you’ll see the Don battle what appears to be a dragon but is actually a windmill.
The dancing throughout the production deserved so many standing ovations that I had to fight myself to follow proper etiquette. What I witnessed was truly a masterpiece and the Atlanta Ballet should be proud of the production that they put together.
I give Don Quixote a 9.5 out of 10. It’s a beautiful display of love, laughter, and dance, combined with the intimate feel of the Cobb Energy Centre. You can experience the age-old tale in-person through February 10. You can look at tickets HERE
Photos: Kim Kenney