DanceNorth WestReview

Birmingham Royal Ballet: Don Quixote- The Lowry, Salford

Reviewer: Dave Cunningham

Music: Ludwig Minkus arranged by Hans Vercauteren

Choreography: Carlos Acosta after Marius Petipa and the novel by Miguel de Cervantes

Birmingham Royal Ballet do not seem to be having much luck with their new production of Don Quixote. The original tour had to be postponed due to the COVID pandemic and the first two dates at The Lowry were called-off due to a combination of COVID and a significant number of injuries among the dancers. Even tonight the real world intrudes with the Royal Ballet Sinfonia getting an ovation before the ballet starts by playing the Ukrainian National Anthem. Lord knows the audience wishes it was not necessary to acknowledge the astonishing courage of the Ukrainians, but the tribute certainly adds to the sense of occasion and spirit of overcoming adversity which the production generates.

Don Quixote’s love of fictional tales of chivalry is such he becomes unable to separate fact from fantasy and is convinced he is a knight on a quest to serve his imaginary Lady Dulcinea. Along with his hapless squire Sancho Panza (Laura Day) he encounters the feisty Kitri (Miki Mizutani) who is determined to avoid marriage to the wealthy but foppish Gamache (Rory Mackay) and instead wed Basilio (Mathias Dingman). In accordance with his chivalric ideals Don Quixote (Jonathan Payn) is determined to help the lovers although they do not seem to require his assistance.

Don Quixote is a labour of love for choreographer Carlos Acosta and his passion is apparent in the production. He sets a warm, occasionally tempestuous, Mediterranean atmosphere. Fans and swirling skirts are used flirtatiously and many of the dance moves are inspired by the poses of matadors. Although exciting there is no real threat of danger; the encounter between the fleeing lovers and a tribe of gypsies rapidly turns into a dance-off and Kitri’s father seems too lovably confused to really force her into an unwanted union.

Although flamboyant, with eye-popping costumes by Tim Hatley, this is not a production that takes itself too seriously. The dancing of the matadors is so deliberately macho as to border on parody.  As they swagger around the stage a member of the chorus faints. Petit Miki Mizutani makes clear Kitri’s distain for her suitors keeping her body rigid with contempt as she is passed doll-like between them.

The high energy of the ballet is infectious. It is hard to resist joining in with the chorus as their rapid hand-clapping mirrors the pounding feet of Miki Mizutani. It is a spectacular production and not just in the dancing and costumes. Peter Mumford’s lighting ensures the supernatural Dyads appear as if from thin air.

As Don Quixote’s library features a model windmill and mounted horse’s head it is possible events may actually be taking place in his confused mind. Don Quixote may even prefer illusion to reality; even after encountering the real-life Kitri he becomes distracted and pursues a vision of his idealised concept of a woman.

Don Quixote and Gamache are presented as mirror images, both somewhat delusional with the former pursuing chivalric ideals and dressed in makeshift armour and the latter convinced he is God’s gift to women and so over-dressed as to be foppish.

It is impossible to resist the charm of the production as captured by Miki Mizutani and Mathias Dingman. Mizutani is very much the spirited, hot-tempered daughter refusing to comply with her father’s demands with stamping feet and sulky looks but all too eager to melt into a warm smile for her friends while Dingman is the perfect diamond in the rough, able to charm his way out of tight spots. The technical display of dancing is astonishing with Dingman holding Mizutani aloft with just one arm and stunning examples of mid-air corkscrew twists and single leg spins.

Birmingham Royal Ballet has overcome considerable adversity to stage Don Quixote and the result is an inspirational triumph.

Reviewed Friday 4 March 2022

The Reviews Hub Score

Triumphing over adversity

Show More

The Reviews Hub - North West

The North West team is under the editorship of John Roberts. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

Related Articles

Back to top button