Don Quixote, Royal Opera House, Covent Garden

Bolshoi dances around Cervantes with gusto and passion
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At its best, the Bolshoi's Don Quixote has gusto, a confidence in the Russo-Spanish-stage gypsy world of this ballet. The heroine leaps airily backwards into her partner's arms; the lead Gypsy roars in, like a silent movie Cleopatra looking for the asp.

Don Quixote has been a Bolshoi speciality for decades. The choreography, after Petipa, is all emphatic fireworks: jumps and turns come along regularly to Minkus's oompah tunes. With style and conviction, it's dashing entertainment; Bolshoi stars have famously put these flash steps across, giving them real bite.

This ballet opened the Moscow company's first London season in five years. The first night of Alexei Fadeyechev's production, wasn't quite a vintage performance, but the Bolshoi still look at home.

The ballet leaves Cervantes a long way behind. The Don and Sancho Panza are supporting roles, intervening to help the heroine Kitri marry her beloved Basil rather than the fop chosen by her father. Fadeyechev's production keeps plenty of mime scenes. There are Spanish dances, folk and gypsy dances, a classical vision scene where Quixote imagines Kitri as his ideal woman.

Maria Alexandrova is a rising star at the Bolshoi, but her Kitri is brassily short of nuance. She has an elegant physique, with long legs and a long neck, and she jumps and turns triumphantly. But she doesn't do much to engage with her partner and she's careless with the music.

Sergei Filin paid a lot more attention, to his ballerina and to his choreography. He has a crisp jump and a clear line, and he does the pyrotechnics with some dash.

Leading the Vision Scene, Ekaterina Shipulina dances with strong attack, stretching her feet boldly. There's some tension in her lifted chin, but she's a striking stage presence.

The character dances were scene-stealing. The Spanish dance is all languishing backbends, but Ilze Liepa dances it with style and a whipcord spine. The Gypsy Dance is pure hokum, but Yulianna Malkhasyants gives it a huge, melodramatic scale.

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