Good dancing, good music tonight at the opening performance of Don Quixote as Paloma Herrera and Jose Manuel Carreno performed for the last time together in New York at The Met. Their love, respect, and gratitude for each other was apparent through all three acts of this handsome production. Carreno relied more on his turns than his jumps, and delivered some extraordinary multiple pirouettes that decelerated to an absolute stop and then were punctuated with a knowing smile at the audience. The big overhead lifts in Act 1 were a little iffy, but did not collapse. Herrera's Kitri, so different from her spectacular Kitris as a teenager, is now a sophisticated, wiser version whose beautiful legs and feet sculpt the story as opposed to beating it out with excessive energy.
Haglund will only be seeing Don Quixote four times this season, but has in seasons past sat through a week of them. There are many dance opportunities for soloists and corps members as well as terrific character roles. Victor Barbee, Arron Scott, Craig Salstein, and Isaac Stappas were very funny as Don Q., Sancho Panza, Gamache, and Lorenzo. Stappas is unmatched as Lorenzo and was a tour de force throughout the evening. All the character dancers were superb. But according to the mixed group of high school non-dancers seated near Haglund who had previously seen the play and also read the book in 8th grade, all the characters needed fatter stomachs, and the production would be improved if a real donkey were used in a walk-on, non-dancing role. It was suggested that ABT recruit Smoke, the Iraqi donkey and Marine mascot who just arrived in town from Iraq's Anbar Province on his way to his new job in Nebraska. "Nebraska or The Met stage? Let me bray on it."
Veronika Part and David Hallberg as Mercedes and Espada were smashing. Hallberg, who may never escape his wholesome image, was especially sizzling in Act III – more spontaneous, less concentration on steps and more infusion of attitude. Veronika's Queen of the Dryads was truly beautiful. She had a bit of a problem with one of the Italian fouettes, but it did not mar the overall performance. Haglund was bothered by the tutus worn by Paloma and Veronika in the dream sequence. Both were beautiful, but they did not look good together because of the huge difference in the diameters of the pancakes. They looked like they came from different costume generations.
The Flower Girls were Maria Riccetto and Misty Copeland - not always in unison on their jumps, but otherwise quite charming. Their individual variations were vibrant and a little sassy. Joseph Phillips and Luciana Paris were a powerhouse Gypsy Couple. Both gave very gutsy performances. Sarah Lane was the perfect Amour with fleeting bourrees.
One down, two Don Qs to go this week for Carreno. So many great performances under his belt, including 16 years of mostly great Don Qs. He's helped define a standard that the upcoming generations will struggle to meet for a long time. And so, Haglund bestows on Jose this spectacular golden Cuban heeled Pump Bump Award: