Dance: Glory days

DON QUIXOTE LONDON COLISEUM
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The Independent Culture
THE BOLSHOI BALLET is ending its London season with the most enjoyable of the six programmes. Don Quixote is the newest production, having premiered in Moscow only 11 days before opening at the Coliseum.

Moscow and St Petersburg have both had versions of Quixote in the repertoire for nearly 130 years; in origin it is the incomparable Petipa's oldest surviving ballet. Many other choreographers over the years have put their pennyworth in and, following tradition, this Bolshoi staging is very different from the Kirov one seen here two years ago, but almost as much fun.

This is Alexei Fadeyechev's first production since becoming artistic director last September, and sensibly he has concentrated on getting back the best of former Moscow versions while polishing what had grown rusty or dusty. Acts Two and Three are played in the reverse order from what we have come to expect, but this is simply reverting to old Bolshoi practice.

Dramatically this means that the heroine Kitri and her lover Basil overcome their problems with her father and a rich rival suitor much too soon. But it has the advantage of making the ostensible hero, the crazy knight Don Quixote, more central.

Who watches this ballet for its story anyway? The true attraction is the wealth of nonstop dances in richly contrasted styles, and these show the re-invigorated Bolshoi company at its liveliest. Nina Ananiashvili, delicate in the tiny detail of her solos, but big and bold in her attack, was the first-night Kitri, her bright smile and even brighter eyes enlivening every moment. Her Basil was Andrei Uvarov, whose dancing dazzles as much as his long legs and handsome profile.

Andrei Sitnikov's nice, matter-of-fact Quixote and Alexander Petukhov's jolly round Sancho are deprived in London of the horse and donkey they ride in Moscow, but make much of their roles, while Mark Peretokin waves his cloak dashingly and stamps alarmingly as the toreador Espada.

The other Gypsies, Spaniards, Dryads and classical soloists who contribute joyfully or soulfully to the action must share one joint accolade with the orchestra playing Minkus's eminently danceable score under Alexander Sotnikov, given the first-night podium for once. To answer the question we all asked a month ago: yes, the Bolshoi Ballet truly is on the way to winning back its old glory.

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