Title: New twists and turns enliven 'Don Quixote'
Author: Sid Smith
Date: April 22, 2011
Publisher: Chicago Tribune
"Don Quixote, or Fantasies of a Madman" is one of Boris Eifman's most enjoyable works, brisk storytelling and lively dance that gingerly sends up classical ballet while providing a reasonably fine modern equivalent.
True, the full-length ballet by the Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg, on view through Saturday at the Auditorium Theatre, harbors some of Eifman's trademark histrionics, though less so than in the past. In its less satisfying second act, a tavern spectacle suffers stylistic and structural oddities more typically found in Broadway hokum. Eifman deserves credit for devising his own technique, though he sometimes does so dubiously — women occasionally cross their legs in a lift with a touch of inelegance.
But Eifman wakes up the old art like few others, loyal to the tradition while boldly updating its look. In "Quixote," he finds the perfect metaphor, encasing his hero in a framing plot as inmate of an asylum, a way to be more faithful to Miguel de Cervantes' themes than the classical ballet "Don Quixote." (Both are set to the same Ludwig Minkus' score.) Not only is this Quixote — danced with brittle zeal and bursting energy Thursday by Sergey Volobuev — a more central character, but the approach allows Eifman to craft an earnest plea for the imagination, a lustrous salute to the vision and suffering of all artists.
The asylum scenes, while here and there too cute, boast smart satire of the original, with two ingenious pas de deux, one involving a hula hoop and the other a rubber ball, starring Quixote and the sleek, gorgeous woman in sleek, gorgeous white (Yulia Manzheles) portraying his doctor.
Meanwhile, fantasies set in Barcelona give life to the classic's characters, including Kitri (the strikingly swift Natalia Matsak) and Basil (Alexei Turko). The Act I finale is especially memorable, Quixote and the ensemble trapped in a stalled, unending run to the front of the stage — a frantic rush to nowhere.