'Don Quixote' on a Fun-Loving Errand to Entertain

By Loeffler, William | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, April 10, 2014 | Go to article overview

'Don Quixote' on a Fun-Loving Errand to Entertain


Loeffler, William, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


Things are a bit mad at Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre at the moment.

In one studio, the righteously daft knight errant Don Quixote rhapsodizes about antiquated notions of chivalry to his long- suffering "squire" Sancho Panza. In another, the corps de ballet rehearse a gypsy folk dance. Next door, a male dancer lifts his female partner in a run-through of the grand pas de deux during the wedding in Act 3.

The company is immersed in final rehearsals for "Don Quixote," which runs April 11 to 13 at the Benedum Center, Downtown.

"It seems liked we were working a lot more studios than normal because there's so much material to be done," artistic director Terrence Orr says. "I have three different casts and principals."

If marshalling this Spanish armada has made Orr crazed enough to pick a fight with a windmill, he's not showing it. It's a "good busy," he says.

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre has produced "Don Quixote" in 1975, 1998, 2003 and 2007.

Inspired by the novel by Don Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (1547- 1616), "Don Quixote" was created by choreographer Marius Petipa and given its world premiere in 1869 at the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow. A Frenchman, Petipa had lived in Madrid for four years, absorbing traditions of Spanish dance.

The version that is familiar to most audiences today is derived from a 1902 revival by choreographer Alexander Gorsky. He dispensed with the bravura tradition of ballet, where dancers would try to one- up each other with displays of virtuosity, for a more-naturalistic approach that he felt better served the narrative.

The corps de ballet, which previously had functioned more or less as human scenery, were brought forward to interact with the lead characters.

But if the classic choreography of Petipa and Gorsky remains relatively unchanged, the same can't be said for the sets, costumes and dancers.

This "Don Quixote," which features sets by Thomas Boyd and costumes by Judanna Lynn, is new, at least to Pittsburgh.

"It's kind of fun for me," Orr says. "It's a big challenge. …

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