Preview: Don Quixote, Playhouse, Edinburgh

'Love letter' tells the tale like no other
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The Independent Culture

The great American choreographer George Balanchine called dancer Suzanne Farrell his Stradivarius. Dancing solo roles for the New York City Ballet at the age of 16, Farrell became his final muse, and he created his ballet, Don Quixote, for her in 1965. Forty years on, Farrell has revived Balanchine's so-called "love letter" for her own company and is bringing it to Edinburgh for its first-ever UK performance.

The choreographer is better known for short abstract ballets in a neo-classical style, rather than full-length narratives, but the content of Don Quixote is pure Balanchine. "There are steps there that you don't see anywhere else," says Farrell. "They couldn't be anyone other than Balanchine and yet they don't look like other Balanchine [pieces]."

There'll be romance and chivalry and wild imagination and this version, Farrell thinks, has more artistic integrity than the better known Petipa ballet. "It runs more true to Cervantes' interpretation," she says. "[It's all about] the power of doing what you believe in against all odds for an ideal." Something in the story must have chimed with Balanchine, who blazed his own trail in the 20th century, believing in the power of dance (and the beauty of the female dancer) above all else, ideals still being passed down by dancers like Farrell.

Now 60, Farrell formed her company in 2000 in Washington DC, and this will be their first trip to the UK. Farrell takes particular pride in reviving Don Quixote because it is a ballet that really belonged to her - Balanchine had never created a full-length ballet around a single dancer before this one. But her starring role of Dulcinea will be performed this time round by Heather Ogden, a young dancer who, Farrell says, embodies the qualities of naivety and vulnerability that are essential to the part.

There's only a tinge of envy on Farrell's part. "If I could've danced forever I would've, because it's so wonderful. But I had my time and now it's theirs."

26-29 August (08706 063 424; www.edinburgh-playhouse.co.uk)

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