By Patricia Boccadoro
PARIS, 30 August 2005—An admirable version of Don Quixote by the San Francisco
Ballet, with staging and choreography by Tomassin and Possokhov after
Gorsky and Petipa, marked the first year of a new summer dance festival in
Paris, Les étés de la danse. Held in the magnificent gardens of
the hotels de Rohan -Soubise, in the Rue des Francs-Bourgeois in the
Marais area of Paris where the country's historical
records are kept, the open-air theatre offered a perfect setting
for this lively ballet. The company, eighty members in all, full of
energy and pulsing with life, threw themselves into the work.
Don Quixote, which might be thought an excellent choice to
take on tour, is nevertheless a show piece with high technical demands,
and the company's two Cuban stars, Lorena Feijoo and Joan Boada, lived up
to their reputation, glittering brightly at the centre. It is a work where
style, elegance and artistic interpretation can take a second seat to
firework displays, so perhaps it didn't bother many that these two
principals rarely looked at each other so engrossed were they in their own
virtuoso feats. And feats there were, not least the phenomenal one-armed
"Russian" lift, where Boada lifted the sturdy Feijoo not once, but twice,
the second time carrying the Cuban ballerina halfway across the stage with
the greatest of ease.
But both lacked the sense of fun and sparkle so closely associated with
these roles. Bravura displays of classical technique might please many
audiences, but in between this pair was just boring.
San Francisco Ballet: Don
Photo: Jacques Moati
There was, however, consistently enjoyable dancing from the corps de
ballet in their pretty dresses, on loan from Danish ballet, in the first
act. The steps showed off their lovely line and clean fast footwork,
although they were not quite so homogeneous in the vision scene. As far as
the other soloists were concerned, casting proved very uneven.
The show was stolen by Australian-born Damian Smith in the role of
Gamache, normally a rather crude , poorly danced character. He was
brilliant. Tall, elegant and handsome, with long curling hair, he was
reminiscent of photos of the late Errol Flynn, and was full of the humour
and charm one normally associates with Basilio. Affected and foppish but
so entertaining. Boada cut a somewhat empty figure next to such a
colourful dancer. All praise too, to the graceful Yuan Tuan Tan as the
queen of the Dryads, and to French ballerina, Muriel Maffre as a light,
bouyant, stylish Mercedes. The Paris Opéra's loss is proving San
Francisco's gain. Hansuke Yamamoto, with his high, virile leaps, also left
his mark as the gipsy king.
However, Espada, Sancho Panza, and Don Quixote, a deceptively difficult
role, were sorely miscast.
San Francisco Ballet, one of the most prestigious American ballet
companies, presented three well-balanced programmes including a Balanchine
evening and three creations as well as the traditional Don
Quixote from 7 July to 23 July 2005.
Patricia Boccadoro writes on dance in Europe. She
contributes to The Observer and Dancing Times and was dance consultant to
the BBC Omnibus documentary on Rudolf Nureyev. Ms. Boccadoro is the dance
editor for Culturekiosque.com