Richmond Ballet’s new ‘Don Quixote’ production features international talent
The room was full of surprisingly drab colored dancers, but before long, the group exploded into fierce, but graceful movements. The Richmond Ballet held a preview for their upcoming Don Quixote performance today, and it gave a lucky few a behind-the-scenes glimpse at what was in store from the renown ballet company, and two very special guests.
Governor McAuliffe announced last year that the Richmond Ballet accepted an invitation to the 15th annual ‘Meet in Beijing’ Arts Festival Beijing, which will mark the ballet’s first trip to Asia as well as their second International tour. In response, the Richmond Ballet, for the 2014-15 Season launched a ‘Road to China’ initiative as a cultural exchange with China.
The purpose of these events is to help strengthen the economic and collaborative ties with China and the Commonwealth of Virginia. As a part of the ‘Road to China’, the ballet has invited two artists from the National Ballet to take part in one of their performances.
Yesterday, Wang Ye and Ma Xiaodong of the National Ballet of China arrived at the Richmond Ballet for their upcoming performances in Don Quixote playing the lead roles of Kitri and Basilio.
Don Quixote is one of the classic ballets, much like Swan Lake, but there are several different versions of it around the world.
Ye and Xiaodong were actually working on a version in their homeland, but they said it was different than the Richmond Ballet’s version. They said the Chinese version was more technical, while the US version was more theatrical.
“Yesterday was (Ye and Xiaodong’s) first rehearsal in the studio. It really shows how dance and ballet in particular is an international language,” said Stoner Winslett (pictured below), founding Artistic Director of the Richmond Ballet, after a short bit of the play was rehearsed before a media audience.
This is the first step in the Richmond Ballet’s ‘Road to China’, with China bringing the two principal dancers here from the National Ballet of China. Don Quixote featuring the guest dancers will run February 20th-22nd at the Carpenter Theatre. On the 28th, they will host a Chinese New Year Gala Celebration.
The final point in the ‘Road to China’ will be the Richmond Ballet traveling to China in May and performing in Beijing, Shanghai, and two other cities.
Don Quixote has not been performed by the Richmond Ballet since February 2007. It was performed in the ballet’s very first season in 1985. The version currently being staged was written by Nicolas Beriozoff but has been restaged by the Richmond Ballet’s Malcolm Burn.
The ballet Don Quixote is inspired by the Spanish novel by Miguel de Cervantes written in the early 17th century. It is the story of the adventures of an aging knight, Don Quixote and his partner Sancho Panza.
“[The ballet is] the idea of Don Quixote more than actually having any basis of any stories from the book which was 300 years earlier, it involves the barber [Basilio] and Kitri and the barber are sweethearts,” said by Malcolm Burn (pictured below), Artistic Associate and Ballet Master of the Richmond Ballet.
Burn played the Barber when he first came to the Richmond Ballet 26 years ago and will play Don Quixote in this upcoming performance.
The ballet focuses on the main plot line loosely based around two young lovers, Kitri and Basilio. Kitri’s parents decide she has to ‘marry the money,’ but she wants to marry the lesBarber Basilio. Then Don Quixote comes into town and gets in the middle of it all.
The Richmond Ballet dancers began rehearsal for Don Quixote on January 19th, but Ye and Xiaodong had only learned the first half of three acts of the performance yesterday. Cody Beaton, a dancer of the Richmond Ballet., was impressed by the two newcomer’s performance, but wasn’t totally surprised – in her eyes, dance has a language of its own that all dancers can communicate with.
“I really enjoy when people come in because it’s kind of a beautiful reminder that dance is a universal language,” said Beaton, who plays one of Kitri’s friends.
The dancers of the Richmond Ballet also had nearly a month of practice under their belts, and said the rest of the company’s knowledge of the performance makes it easier for the new Chinese dancers to assimilate from their homeland’s version.
“We already know our part and the dance, so we can help them,” said native-Brazilian dancer Fernando Sabino (image below, center) who has been working with the Richmond Ballet for nine years. “We are aware of what they have to do and where they have to go.”
“It’s always fun, we always bring something different to the table,” said Sabino about his own transition from his South American home to dancing here in the states. ”It’s nice for somebody to come with a different technique, so it’s nice to have principal dancers come perform with us and we all do it together”
Watching the rehearsal you would not even notice without being told that Ye and Xiaodong had first rehearsed the day before, they were just as graceful as the others.
“When they came in yesterday and they did their variations it was different,” said dancer Maggie Smith who plays the role of Mercedes in Don Quixote. “So it was really interesting to see the different choreography and how they use the music differently than we do.”
China is starting to modernize their ballet with the development of their own cultural ballets inspired by ancient Chinese lore such as Raise the Red Lantern (2001) and The Peony Pavillion (2008) that they perform internationally.
At the same time they are always investing in partnerships with artists around the world.
The Richmond Ballet is one of the biggest commissioners of new works and will be bringing along some new ballets, including Lift the Fallen written by the Chinese born Ma Cong for the Richmond Ballet.
Through the arts and ballet, an unspoken form of communication, without words and even language barriers, it can bring people and other cultures together to strengthen ties. This new production of Don Quixote aims to accomplish both, and you can find out for yourself starting Feb 20th.
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