The Other Don Quixote Lives Again
Jackson, George, Dance Magazine
Think "dance" at the same time you think Don Quixote and something virtuosic springs to mind, most likely, the Petipa-Minkus ballet, a sunny comedy with farcical elements. However, another Don Quixote-not as well known but of epic proportions and possessing a dark side, ablaze with imagination--will be restaged this month in Washington, D.C., and subsequently toured. This three-act Don Quixote, with choreography by George Balanchine and music by Nicolas Nabokov, premiered at New York City Ballet in 1965 and was last performed there in 1979. Seldom was it the same twice because both Balanchine and Nabokov kept making changes to their contributions. Never final, admittedly flawed, it was arguably a masterwork as its proponents on both sides of the footlights have proclaimed with passion.
That poet among critics, Edwin Denby, saw this Don Quixote as "rich and strange, bitter, delicate, and tragic." The original ballerina, Suzanne Farrell, describes the work as "dance, mime, and ceremony mingled with our real lives and emotions." She remembers the first performance, with the choreographer in the title role and herself as his muse, as "a kind of public courtship." Balanchine left Farrell the rights to the ballet in his will, and it is she who is mounting Don Quixote anew for her Suzanne Farrell Ballet, which is underwritten by the Kennedy Center.
Balanchine did more in this work than construct exquisite passages of choreography. Don Quixote seems a declaration of his own philosophical credo as well as a genuine re-creation of Miguel de Cervantes' classic novel about the idealist at odds with the world. The choreographer's belief in the "eternal feminine" inspired nearly all his ballets, but in Don Quixote he tapped both the sacred and demonic sources of his devotion. …