Don Quixote, Royal Festival Hall, London

A knight in very flashy armour
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The Independent Culture

Cervantes' melancholy knight hardly gets a look in; Don Quixote, perhaps the silliest surviving ballet of the 19th century, is a Russo-Spanish romp, all ruffled skirts, fouetté turns and kiss-curls. The Moscow Stanislavsky Ballet bounced through it, looking at home in its world of stage gypsies and scowls. Some of the dancers had more energy than precision, but they made it a lively show.

Cervantes' melancholy knight hardly gets a look in; Don Quixote, perhaps the silliest surviving ballet of the 19th century, is a Russo-Spanish romp, all ruffled skirts, fouetté turns and kiss-curls. The Moscow Stanislavsky Ballet bounced through it, looking at home in its world of stage gypsies and scowls. Some of the dancers had more energy than precision, but they made it a lively show.

The Stanislavsky production is credited to Gorsky, with revisions by Alexei Tchitchinadze, the company's former director. It was a roughly traditional staging, with a few tweaks here and there. Minkus provides tinkling music by the yard, and Ara Karapteyan conducted a brisk, no-nonsense performance.

Marina Sokolova's stage designs surrounded the ballet with Spanish fans and lace. We first saw Don Quixote and Sancho Panza in silhouette, figures on a lacy drop-curtain. The balconies of the town had frilly squiggles; the town square was backed by layer upon layer of gauzy village houses. Even the windmills looked like openwork stitching.

Quixote wanders through this ballet, getting caught up in the story of Kitri, who loves Basil but whose father wants to marry her off to the fop Camacho. On press night, Kitri was danced by Natalia Ledovskaya. She's a tough, strong dancer, snapping through high kicks and ferocious turns. She had plenty of attack, but she needed higher spirits. In Act II, Quixote has a vision of Kitri as his beloved Dulcinea. Ledovskaya kept her grip on the role, but she wasn't radiant.

The wedding pas de deux is the most celebrated number in this ballet. It's a gala showstopper, flashy as anything. Ledovskaya powered through the fouettés and the show-off pointework. Her Basil, Roman Malenko, partnered her securely. He dashed at his own steps, hurling himself into the jumps and spins.

The lovers were surrounded by gypsies, street dancers, friends with solo numbers. As the bullfighter Espada, Dmitry Romanenko glared his way through his solos. Irina Belavina was better as Espada's girlfriend. She swooped through her character solo - long dress, heeled shoes, impossibly deep backbends. She ended on her knees, arched back to the floor, triumphant. The gypsies, however, couldn't match her gusto: too much lipgloss, not enough conviction.

The best classical dancing came from Natalia Somova as the Queen of the Dryads. She has strong feet, and she takes classical positions with authority. As Kitri's friends, Anastasia Pershenkova and Olga Sizykh gave bright, eager performances, with an easy flow of movement.

The richest performance came from Anton Domashev as the vain Camacho, Kitri's rejected suitor. Domashev has enormous eyes and an air of determined dignity, and his Camacho bubbled over with comic detail. He took noble attitudes, only to be sidetracked by his hair, or by worries that the village girls were after his lace ruffles. His dancing was both crisp and pedantic, upper body bent over his witty, finicky feet. When he danced, this Camacho was a man in bliss: terribly, happily carried away with his own performance, right until he walked into a wall.

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