Photo - Jacques Moatti
Friday evening saw Brisbane’s glitterati hit the red (starred) carpet for the premiere of Don Quixote by Ballet Nacional de Cuba. Put simply, the Cuban company is stunning and their ballet is a completely other world. It is a world of chivalry, grace, Spanish romance and one hell of a lot of tulle.
Truth be told, I haven’t seen a lot of ballets in the grand classical tradition and was at first a little dubious of the stylised grandeur of the whole shebang. But once they started really dancing, and out came those boys in oh-so-tight tights flying through the air, I was quickly put at ease. Every moment of the dance was fuelled by honest passion; the expression of the dancers, the richness of the story in their hands and faces was beautiful, clearly they were all genuinely loving every minute on that stage.
None moreso than principal dancer Viengsay Valdés who, in the lead role of Kitri, was the most breathtakingly expressive dancer of the evening. The smile on her face was joyous and every leap and turn seemed a delight to her. I imagine this is the image of a brilliant ballerina, with an elegance and perfection that belies the absurd difficulty of every movement she makes.
The men had a humility about them and an ease of presence that just oozed masculinity. They somehow seemed all at once heroes, demonstrating a strong sexuality without the excessive bravado. In such a ballet that speaks so directly to the fiery Spanish lineage, with toreadors and flamenco gestures, these Cubans captured the heart of Don Quixote’s legend.
In fact this entire production felt very close to the hearts of the Cubans. Before the curtain rose the audience was treated to a short, filmed interview with Alicia Alonso, general director of the BCN, Prima Ballerina Assoluta and inspiration to dancers the world over. We are shown how the company was born of revolution, and is built on the foundations of youth, with Cubans looking to their dancers like football stars in a stadium. Rising through the ranks of a place where politics and ballet go hand in hand, the Cubans push each other to dance bigger and better than those before them.
It’s particularly in act three that things really start to get hot. We have the great Pas De Deux from Kitri and Camacho (danced by outrageously charming Elier Bourzac) with such footwork and feats of strength that blow anything else right out of the water. The solos from both leads were epic, and by this part of the night I didn’t care how much tulle they were wearing once they were leaping to spin three foot in the air, or balancing en pointe with a leg beside their ear. It was showy and fast and just fantastic.
At the end most of the audience stood up and the dancers were radiant. Downstairs a little girl twirled around the foyer with her arms in the air by the reflection of the closing doors. This production was tantamount to a childhood dream, it has some kind of timeless magic that cannot be denied, even by cynical reviewers such as this. Go and see the Cubans, and I assure you, you’ll walk out beaming and bouncing on your tip-toes in front of glass windows for days.
Queensland Performing Arts Centre and Queensland Events in Association with Brisbane Festival 2010 present
Ballet Nacional de Cuba
Venue: Lyric Theatre, QPAC, South Bank, Brisbane
Dates: 24 Sep - 3 Oct 2010
Tickets: $44.00 to $154.00
Duration: 2 hours and 15 min