Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Classics: Don Quixote

Recently, I took some flack on Twitter for disapproving of Ashley Wagner's choice to skate to Black Swan this season.  My opinion is that one should avoid the great ballets if they lack the natural dance ability and extension necessary to portray a swan.  In fact, it drew comparisons in my mind to the awful 2000-01 season when two of the world's top ladies subjected us to watch Don Quixote, perhaps my favorite balletic work, being butchered, tarred and feathered throughout the course of a season.

Don Quixote is derived from Miguel de Cervantes' famous novel Don Quixote de la Mancha.  Most skating programs involve Don Quixote's attempts to woo Kitri, whom Don Quixote mistakes for his beloved Dulcinea.  Kitri is in love with Basillio, whom her father disapproves us.  Basillio stabs himself to convince Kitri's father to reunite them in love, before he agrees and Basillio reveal it was all a joke.  Kitri is young, flirtatious, mischievous and beautiful.

Don Quixote is one of the most famous and beloved Russian ballets.  It is an ideal program for a young disciplined Oksana Baiul or Sasha Cohen.  It was not prepared to be reduced by Robin Wagner and her off-beat, gangly muse.

It was also not prepared to be Irina Slutskaya's vehicle to flirt with her fat husband.

An underrated Don Quixote program:

A program not to be forgotten or ignored, nor would his ego allow you to.  John Curry knew how good this was.  It is discerning Frank Carroll's favorite skating performance.

Even if Natalia Mishkutenok isn't a natural Kitri's, Artur's dramatic flair more than makes up for it.

Tiffany Stiegler was the next best thing since Katia, and Irina and Elena worked to have her bring every Russian Ballet to life, even if her brother played her romantic hero.  Don Quixote was a no-brainer.

Not only did Katherine Healy perform Don Quixote on stage...   (cont'd.)

she brought it to the ice.

Back when he was cute, Evgeny Plushenko displayed his out-of-this-world potential.  It is a shame that more of his programs weren't similar to this one.

Scott Hamilton's parody.  Frankly, I find a hot Russian man in tights doing DQ delicious.

There is nothing funny about Ivan Vasiliev...or his ass in those tights.

They have the look and the line, but this program never reached its potential.  Adapting a classic ballet to twizzle and combination lift requirements is not a simple task.  Still, they have lovely qualities.

And just to make up for showing you Hughes AND Slutksaya (and a Robin Wagner 'goosebumps' fluff piece...


  1. I had never seen what Robin Wagner looked like while doing her brilliant choreography. Does Robin design those beautiful dresses too?

  2. Thanks for posting. Now I can be sure to give your artistic opinions all the weight they deserve: absolutely none.

  3. @9:12 - Mrs. Hughes, is that you? I've always wanted to ask you: Did you ever just consider putting your girls in t-ball instead?

    And AJ, I've been wanting to ask you something as well. Which day do you consider your darkest? February 20, 1998 or February 21, 2002?

    Or, like me, do you live your life with two equally painful thorns in your side, obtrusive rocks in your shoe, gaping holes in your heart?

  4. AJ, you are missing your calling. Anyone who describes Sarah Hughes as Robin Wagner's "off-beat, gangly muse" should be a writer, full-time.

  5. Love this. I need more of these.

  6. Anon @ 9:12--agreed (and, no, this is not the same poster)

  7. What exactly is wrong with AJ's artistic taste? I think he has great taste and is actually a tad conservative.

  8. Stop only watching Vasiliev's Basilio, he's good but not the greatest. Carlos Acosta is a beast in this role and has much better physique.

    But the best Russian Basilio is still the one and only Baryshnikov. The spectacular yet clean technique coupled with flair. He has same short stature as Vasiliev but he knows how to elongate his line and also land his jumps in clean, proper positions unlike Vasiliev. I took a class with him once and also met him on another occasion, he was so kind and has the most penetrating eyes. This is Misha in DQ.

  9. I only know so much about skating, though I love watching it. I have to say Mishkutienok has better epaulement and arm positions than Ilynikh, that is very obvious to me. She looks less like a ballerina than Ilynikh but has better ballet positions. Ilynikh not very musical in phrasing but maybe choreo sucks IDK.

    Dmitriev should have studied ballet at Vaganova, he's very musical in his phrasing, and DQ is one of those that needs musical phrasing in order to make characters vibrant. He would have made a great danseur noble, the type that ballet companies always are looking for: tall, elegant, dramatic yet princely-looking, good partner, and great overall technique.

    John Curry is also fantastic but perhaps too princely for Basilio, although he is most balletic in form and true to DQ as ballet. He should have done Prince Desire from Sleeping Beauty or Prince Siegfried from Swan Lake instead.

    Viktor Petrenko more posturing than true Basilio. Good not great balletic placement.

    Slutskaya and Hughes I didn't see anything remotely Kitri in there. Kitri can be any of the following: impish, playful, exuberant, scamp, charming, even a bit sexy but not too much. But these 2 ladies seem to be skating to DQ. Although I have to say Hughes had very proper upper body placement, I wonder if she ever studied ballet for long period, it seemed like she had formal training. But I don't think Hughes or Slutskaya had natural dancer qualities like other skaters shown, they made no attempt at phrasing or musicality. Slutskaya was bad while Hughes was awkward and boring.

    Yes thanks for palate cleanser of Obraztsova as Kitri, she shows you can have gorgeous line and proper positions while dancing a playful and charming Kitri. Osipova can just do DQ from now till end of her career and she'd still be considered good ballerina. Just don't let her go anywhere near the Lake of Swans judging by short clips on yt.