As a young man, Marius Petipa danced in Spain, and was not averse later to incorporating Spanish dances in his ballets. His sunniest statement is Don Quixote, more than tenuous in its relationship with Cervantes, but the jolliest exercise in Hispanic flummery and flaunted skirts – and all in the best possible taste.
What we know today is Quixote at one or two or, more likely, three removes, various historic hands having been at work on the text, but the Mariinsky staging, as shown on Tuesday and Wednesday, is best fun, and because St Petersburg has always had an elegant way with national dances, given with most impeccable abandon. I love it for its academic sequences, shown with such grace of means, its brightest of local colours and its vivid energies.
Tuesday’s performance was dominated by Denis Matvienko’s Basil, a character drawn with the happiest good humour and the most fizzing bravura. He spins, he soars, he jokes, and you want him never to change, never to do anything other than brilliantly, wittily be Basil. His Kitri, Anastasia Matvienko, eager in bravura, did not otherwise match him, but I was much impressed by such incidental delights as Yekaterina Kondaurova as a smouldering street dancer, and by Oksana Skoryk, a dragonfly Dryad Queen amid a ravishing classical ensemble.
It was on Wednesday night that we saw an ideal Kitri in Yevgenia Obraztsova, so light, so charming, sparkling in dance as in character, adoring her world and her role, and making us adore her with infectious delight. Everything she did, step and drama, was diamond-bright, and she had a most promising Basil as partner. Alexei Timofeyev is young, boasts a big, brave technique that carves massive shapes in the air, and plays with a charming sincerity.
A tremendous evening, and one further illuminated by Kondaurova as the noblest of dryads, by Sofia Gumerova as a street dancer, and by the dedication of the entire ensemble to this unlikely but irresistible romp. Bravo!