Ajkun Ballet performed its "Don Quixote" at The Egg on Friday night.
“Don Quixote” is one of ballet’s most beloved works – mainly for its humor and its technically difficult, and therefore, often brilliant dancing.
Ajkun Ballet Theatre’s version, as choreographed by its Artistic Director Chiara Ajkun and performed on Friday night at The Egg, has its charms. Mainly, the dancers are well-trained, enthusiastic and often superb. The costumes, for the most part, are appropriately colorful and frequently beautiful. But this stripped-down rendering, without scenery, is missing one essential that makes “Don Quixote” a favorite – perfect comedic timing.
Thus, much of the antics between Gamanche (Ariel Correa) and Kitri’s mother (Bianca Delli Priscoli), which is central to the humor, felt forced and didn’t generate the belly laughs it should.
However, that little upset didn’t overshadow the fine dancing from the Momoko Burbine as Kitri and Klevis Tafaj as Basilio and others like Telmen Munkherdene as the toreador and the main couple (unidentified in the program) at the gypsy camp. Watching these dancers navigate their roles was a delight.
Burbine was outstanding. Petite, light and appropriately feisty, she threw herself into the arms of her lover as well as laid down the most delicate, but speedy petite allegro from the grand pas de deux.
Tafaj, though he doesn’t sport an elegant ballon, flung himself across the stage in a series of jumps and turns that expressed his joy in his hard-fought nuptial with Kitri. And when the two came together, it was magical. He easily lifted her – with one arm – high above his head. He also tossed her and caught her too, showing that Burbine and Tafaj obviously enjoyed their roles and each other.
Munkherdene was interesting to watch as he pushed so much energy into his dancing that it was nearly impossible for him to control. He has the technique, but now he needs to reign it in to give him the power to hypnotize his audience with it.
The unidentified lead couple in the gypsy camp were equally amazing. The man angerly deployed a whip as she acquiesced, ending her solo in a submissive backbend. Though part of the original 1869 Alexander Gorsky ballet, the duet is terribly outdated. For one thing, gypsy is pejorative, so that needs to change in every version including American Ballet Theatre’s.
And more troubling is a man with a whip. This is domestic violence. Despite the outstanding dancing, this pas de deux begs for an update as watching a man dominate a woman with a weapon is cringe-worthy, if not traumatizing.
Also, the four-member corps de ballet during the camp scenes needed to do more. They just stood in the background and moved their arms to and fro. They looked too stiff and not part of the action at all. (Maybe they were upset by the whip too.)
Finally, though the comedy didn’t always tickle, Correa as Gamache was physically all in. He was both clumsy and self-absorbed as he feigned sophistication in his over-the-top frills. In the end, I applauded his efforts.
While I’m being nit-picky, Ajkun Ballet’s “Don Quixote” is among the best of its full-length works. But it could be better.