Nutcracker is a cozy ballet that many people enjoy seeing every year. Swan Lake is a visual feast and good for a revisit at least every few years.
But what about Don Quixote? Pennsylvania Ballet artistic director Angel Corella has said it is his favorite ballet, and he rechoreographed it to his taste in 2016, his second season leading the company.
The variations and pas de deux from other companies are popular on YouTube. Sections of the music are familiar. And the story? Well, it’s one of many full-length ballets whose tale is hard to follow. Reading Miguel de Cervantes’ book won’t help, as they have very little in common.
But Don Q, as its known, is a comic delight and bears repeat viewings, even though Corella’s version doesn’t seem vastly different from the classic Marius Petipa choreography. It opened Thursday night at the Academy of Music, and we’ll likely see it many other times, since the ballet recently purchased sets from the San Diego Opera.
Even though it’s been three and a half years since Pennsylvania Ballet last danced Don Q, it’s more polished this time around. There are a good many new dancers in the company, but most of the principal roles were danced by ones who were here when it was performed the first time.
Mayara Piñeiro danced the role of Kitri when it premiered, and she repeated that role Thursday night. Her acting has vastly improved. Now she’s a sassy, fun-loving, passionate girl who goes to some lengths to get what she wants: Basilio, danced by Arian Molina Soca.
Both alumni of the Cuban National Ballet School, the two are well-paired. Molina Soca is a handsome love interest whose strong pirouettes are reminiscent of Corella’s, from his dancing days. Piñeiro’s technique is rock-solid and her fouetté turns looked lighter this time and less like she was winding up a toy.
There were many other fine performances Thursday. Jermel Johnson danced the part of Gamache, a comedy role for a change, and very funny. Alexandra Heier and Yuka Iseda were the flower girls, ready with an impressive divertissement at any pause in the story. Lillian DiPiazza and Sterling Baca, as Mercedes and Espada, had some messy moments, but both were still lovely.
In the gypsy scene, it was refreshing to see Nayara Lopes with her hair down and curly. This was a diverse gypsy camp, also featuring newly promoted principal dancer Zecheng Liang.
Kathryn Manger flitted and floated as Cupid, guiding Don Quixote (Charles Askegard) through a surreal dream following his equally bizarre fight with a windmill. The scene included an appearance from the stunning Oksana Maslova as the Queen of the Dryads and a full corps of her tutu-clad disciples.
There were mistakes — a dropped fan, messy turns, missed cues — but hey, mythical creatures are human, too.
One thing Corella said he changed since 2016 were the costumes for the wedding pas deux. Instead of fiery red, they’re white. This may be the first time I’ve seen a long-sleeved tutu, and I prefer the original choice.
Like a good book or movie, Don Quixote is worth viewing more than once, which is a good thing since it is likely to be a staple in the troupe’s repertoire.