Don Quixote

(Queensland Ballet)


Francois Klaus’s fresh interpretation of the classic Spanish tale of knight-errant and faithful servant is a kaleidoscope of visual and musical delight. With the focus firmly on Cervantes’ befuddled romantic and his hopeless quests, veteran Paul Boyd is truly superb in the central role of Quixote. His dextrous swordplay against his own giant shadow, his tilting at back-projected windmills, stoushes with monks and reverence for his idealised lady Dulcinea are beautifully danced.

Anthony Lewis as the long-suffering Sancho Panza is the perfect foil to his erratic master’s excesses. Earthy and wily, fully aware that the self-appointed knight he serves is a raving lunatic, he does his best to minimise Don Quixote’s self-harm, and even serves at times as his faithful horse Rocinante.

The always delightful Kimberley Davis dances the peasant-girl Dulcinea with quirky mischief, even adding a special charm to chicken-plucking, while Tracey-Lee Heilbronn as the vision of Dulcinea invests her mystical appearances with swirling grace.

And then we have Jens Weber and Hayley Farr as the young lovers Basilio and Kitri. What splendid work they do, most memorably in the classic pas de deux to Minkus’s music at the beginning of Act 2. Weber’s absolute confidence and poise as he executes his gravity-defying leaps showed an appreciative audience what a good catch Klaus made when he recruited this talented young dancer from Germany.

An original concept in this production is setting the Quixote story in the midst of the making of a contemporary film of the ballet. (Is it meant to remind us of the 1972 movie filmed in a Melbourne airport hangar, and starring Rudolf Nureyev, Robert Helpmann and Louise Aldous with the Australian Ballet?) It’s an interesting and successful approach, allowing the dancers to become “real people”, smoking and chatting when not performing for the camera. The set, however, could have been made more like a movie sound stage, littered with cameras, lights, dolly tracks, scaffolding etc., rather than depending on a single camera and a clapper board to represent the movie-making.

The device allows the Quixote story to be, at different times, a conventional ballet being filmed, and the Quixote dancer’s dream, allowing for a dazzling range of settings and costumes. Contemporary scenes, including a bar scene as well as mindless crowds traversing the streets to skyscraper backdrops, prove very effective. The corps de ballet provide energetic support to the principals of a consistently high standard, while Thomas Woods’ Queensland Orchestra provide a full-bodied sound for the variety of works and composers involved.

— John Henningham
(Performance seen: Thu 15th November 2001)