“It has been a while since we’ve had ballet and I need to see some ballet,” said Segerstrom Center for the Arts executive vice president Judy Morr in anticipation of the Mikhailovksy Ballet’s return to Costa Mesa. “I can’t wait for them to get here.”
The 88-year-old company from St. Petersburg Russia was founded in the 1930s as the resident ballet of the Mikhailovsky Theatre. The company will bring “Don Quixote,” one of the more energetic and festive productions in the classical ballet canon, to the Segerstrom Hall stage November 9-11.
Although the name suggests a comparison between the lengthy, two-part novel by Miguel de Cervantes, the ballet rendition as imagined by Marius Petipa follows a very different narrative. Instead of a tale about a hopelessly romantic, elderly knight on a quest for adventure, we instead dive into a story that begins with a love triangle between a beautiful, Spanish heroine, Kitri, the penniless boy-next-door, Basilio, and the rich nobleman Gamache.
Opening night and Saturday evening performances of “Don Quixote,” will feature the acclaimed Ivan Vasiliev in the lead role. Know for his explosive jumps and fiery performance quality, Vasiliev, who made his debut with the Bolshoi Ballet at 17 in the role of Basilio, has long-enjoyed portraying this particular character.
“‘Don Quixote’ is a very special ballet to me,” said Vasiliev. “I have danced it since I (can) remember. It’s hard to count how many times I’ve danced Basilio.”
Despite his familiarity with the role, he said each performance of this very dear character feels different.
“Each performance for me is like a new life, a new story,” said Vasiliev. “Before I go to the stage, while I am busy with the makeup, I think myself into the part, which I am going to live through on the stage. I am always trying to find new colors and traits of the character.”
So whether it is a person’s first time seeing “Don Quixote” or it is an old favorite, Vasiliev and the Mikhailovsky Ballet are sure to offer something new. This expectation, in part, is what Morr is most excited for.
“(This ballet) is different each time different people do it,” said Morr. “It has a story you can follow without a textbook. It’s simple, but people do not lose interest.”
Wedged into a season of dance that is overall less classical, “Don Quixote” serves to remind and educate audiences about the roots of the art form. Its inclusion as one of five productions in the International Dance Series follows the world premiere of the contemporary ballet “Isadora,” which debuted on August 10, and precedes the anticipated world premiere of Alexei Ratmansky’s “Harlequinade” with American Ballet Theatre in January.
Presenting works that demonstrate the breadth of the concert dance genre and bringing in artists with diverse styles and cultural influences has been a hallmark of the Segerstrom dance series since Morr began programming the annual seasons over 30 years ago.
She feels a responsibility to the Orange County community to make sure people see the best dance there is. Sometimes that means encouraging people to take a risk on an experimental new ballet and sometimes that means inviting them to relish in tradition.
“If you love to dance, you can recognize that it is on a continuum, said Morr. “I think having both the contemporary and the classical gives you a real feel for where dance started and where it is going.”
This week, Mikhailovsky takes us back to the beginnings of ballet with a “Don Quixote” production that is much the same as when it premiered in 1869.
The Mikhailovsky Theatre orchestra will perform the danceable score by Ludwig Minkus as Vasiliev and company breathe new life into a time-honored classic.
Kaitlin Wright is a contributing writer for Arts & Culture at Voice of OC. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.