‘Don Quixote’ shows Nevada Ballet off to great start

Before the curtain rose on “Don Quixote,” Nevada Ballet Theatre artistic director Bruce Steivel — in his 11th year — confided, “This is one of the strongest companies I have had.”

He’s right.

Friday’s performance was bright and energetic, with fun for the audience (and, it seemed, the dancers) punctuated with some show-stopping moves.

The only detractions, as always, remain the recorded music, the rudimentary scenery and the relatively fundamental lighting — all dictated by the smallish venue.

The 19th century ballet, composed by Aloisius Ludwig Minkus, was last performed by the company in 2001. It was inspired by Cervantes’ story of an idealistic, would-be knight who sets out with his sword bearer, Sancho Panza, to battle for a variety of causes. The characters, who do not dance, were portrayed by Jay Kim and Paolo Manso de Sousa.

Quixote spied the lovely innkeeper’s daughter, Kitri (Elena Shokina; Yoomi Lee or Racheal Hummel-Nole at other performances). He thought she was Dulcinea, the woman he saw in his dreams, so he fought for her to get what she wanted: to marry her love Basilio, a barber, instead of the nobleman Gamache, whom her father thought was a much better match. (Basilo was danced by Baris Erhan; Kyudong Kwak and Zeb Nole also danced the role. Gamache was played in broad style by John Surdick, the company’s principal character dancer.)

Dances in the town square introduced the troupe. In their first pas de deux, Shokina was seductive yet capricious while Erhan offered a glimpse of his skills.

Kitri and Basilio escaped from her father, and when they did, the square was taken over by a group of bullfighters who wooed the town’s women in a series of energetic dances. Zeb Nole (Gregori Arakelyan at other shows) danced a sultry pas de deux with Rebecca Brimhall (Alissa Verbena Dale at other performances).

Quixote and Panza wandered away to a gypsy camp for some of the most stirring dancing of the evening. Cathy Colbert, Alissa Dale and David Ligon, who this year were promoted from the corps de ballet to soloists, were among the group offering a spirited dance filled with drama and complex moves.

Near the camp were two stylistic windmills. Quixote’s quick encounter with one left him unconscious and set the stage for an ethereal dream sequence in which about two dozen members of the company performed a series of light, bright, innocent dances before Quixote regained consciousness.

The joyous wedding sequence that concluded the evening included a series of “can you top this” moves by Kitri and Basilio. Erhan’s leaps seemed nearly impossible, yet were completed with apparent ease, while Shokina’s sequence of turns — balanced en pointe while the other leg whipped in and out to propel her again and again — was exquisite and could put a music-box ballerina to shame.

Steivel seems to have confidence in his company and in the season ahead. Strong performers could make for one of the best seasons in the ballet’s history.

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