Tuesday night’s Playbill cover looked more like an issue of the quarterly publication, Ballet Review, with its classic black and white photo of Maria Alexandrova as Kitri. Here the emphatic beauty of the exact performance moment and the linear harmony within the artist’s life-filled pose were exclaimed without the overpowering and distracting effects of the red in Kitri’s dress. This is an artist who we have held in high esteem for a long time, the Bolshoi's photo conveyed. Alexandrova, who is in her 17th year with the Bolshoi, is one of three current principals who hold the honorary title People's Artist of Russia - the others being Anna Antonicheva and Sveltlana Zakharova.
Even though Alexandrova’s grand allegro was not as exceptional as it would have been had the dancer been given a few more months of recovery from her major Achilles injury, her overall performance was more than enjoyable for its sassy, comedic, feminine interpretation of Kitri and the masterful use of music that included some stunning arabesque balances. She has been dancing the role of Kitri for 14 years, and yet, the freshness and joy of her interpretation were apparent. It’s been a while since Haglund has seen a Bolshoi Ballet performance of Don Quixote that didn’t rely on circus ponyism – and what a relief it was.
Alexandrova’s Basilio, Vladislav Lantratov, has been dancing the role for about three years. He comes by Romantic grace and form naturally whereas being a spunky barber is more of a challenge. He was a strong and reliable partner for Alexandrova, and his masterful skill in several one-armed lifts was impressive. What made Haglund sit up straight, however, was a two-handed overhead lift followed by a fish dive in which Kitri switched direction 180 degrees as Lantratov tossed her into the perfect fish position. She was facing left in the air over his head, and suddenly she was facing right over his knee. With no safety net. Oh, probably Alexandrova’s own fouette coordination had something to do with the spectacular effect of the move, but let’s give this one to Lantratov.
Olga Smirnova as the Dryad Queen was quite the beautiful example of Vaganova schooling in her upper body, but didn’t convey the Bolshoi tradition. The difference between her approach and Alexandrova’s Bolshoi authenticity could not have been made more clear than when the Dryad Queen tried to follow Kitri down a diagonal of arabesques during Act II. Each dancer was individually lovely, but together they were like mixing vodka with red wine – each immensely enjoyable in a glass, but not as a cocktail. One could imagine Olga’s Dryad Queen following the Mariinsky's Tereshkina down Kitri's diagonal, but here, she looked out of place – beautifully out of place, though. No doubt about it.
Denis Rodkin and Oxana Sharova smoldered as Espada and Mercedes – the fierceness of his dancing and character were unlike any of the hot but gentlemanly Espadas who we customarily see in this town. Sharova, of the youthful lumbar vertebrae and dazzling smile, easily found the sultriness in those dramatic backbends.
The character artists always carry the Bolshoi Ballet’s Don Quixote as much as the principal dancers. Alexander Petukhov as Sancho Panza, Denis Savin as Gamache, and Alexei Loparevich as Don Quixote have long been associated with their roles and were as superb as expected. Kristina Karasyova as the Gypsy created her own dramatic and compelling story ballet in a few short moments. She told us her own fortune, or rather her own misfortune, with extraordinary passion and sweeping Graham-like floor work.
The choreography for Cupid was more minor than one would have liked, but it was well-danced by Yulia Lunkina. The soloists in the Act III Grand Pas, Maria Vonogradova and Ana Turazashvili, each displayed beautiful length and grace in their variations and when dancing together.
The H.H. Pump Bump Award is bestowed upon Maria Alexandrova with our thanks for making the trip to New York even though she probably shouldn’t have been taxing her Achilles tendon in Don Quixote quite yet. We’ve had a special Lanvin Kitri flat custom-made for her since we think it inadvisable for her to flaunt around in stilettos for a few more months.