• Jennifer Stahl. Photo:Erik Tomasson.
  • Photo: Erik Tomasson.
  • Kimberly Marie Olivier in Tomasson/Possokhov's Don Quixote. (© Erik Tomasson)

Don Quixote

San Francisco Ballet

Helgi Tomasson, Artistic Director

War Memorial Opera House

Jan. 25-Feb. 2, 2019

Reviewed Feb. 25, 2019

sfballet.org


Conductor Martin West worried the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra through a break-neck Don Quixote. This suited Mathilde Froustey’s frisky Kitri just fine. Luckily her Basilio was Angelo Greco, for whom no challenge is too daunting, though the race to stay on the music discouraged definitively sticking some multiple tour landings. Froustey’s entrance was fleet-footed, though toes were not consistently pointed in this speed derby. The one-note character she chose for Kitri is a coquette whose épaulement is an arm-to-torso crackling frisson, channeling more Zizi Jeanmaire than maja sevillana.

The evening’s standouts were Jennifer Stahl as the bendy and alluring Mercedes, Daniel Deivison-Oliveira as a fastidiously quick-twitch Espada, and Kimberly Marie Olivier as a the fiery Gitana Woman whose character stylings burn down the tent! The trio do justice to Martin Pakledinaz’s toothsome costumes, but the long-limbed Stahl’s line is nothing less than Iberian-elegant in her blue and fuchsia ruffled entrance frock, and then there is an Indigo glittering gown that entwines shadow-like with Deivison-Oliveira’s midnight-black attire in the Taverna duet.

Pascal Molat bumbles comically through his duties as Sancho Panza. Not the least of these is hectoring a besotted and somewhat dim Don Quixote (Jim Sohm) to the next too-early music cue. This he accomplishes without Quixote almost beheading himself, thanks to the unhappy near-miss coincidence of a windmill blade with the Don’s tilted sword.

Alexandre Cagnat gives us a lilac-frosted Gamache, his upper body lagging a Vaganova half-beat behind his lower half. His every shiver, quiver, and sashay, arrives dripping like a dangling participle dipped in purple prose.

These outstanding contributions, including Norika Matsuyama’s piquant Cupid, and Julia Rowe and Isabella DeVivo as Kitri’s earnest and (mostly) constant Friends, more than compensate for a dearth of coherence. It’s as if the dancers were not only rushing to catch up with the music, but scene transitions had been left to chance rather than run-through rehearsals.

In the end, the well-timed and smartly played comic touches remind us that this ballet’s clever sight gags and engaging humor make it way more fun than the grand pas pyrotechnics  supersaturating competitions, showcases, and galas, might suggest.

Toba Singer

Toba Singer, author of “Fernando Alonso, the Father of Cuban Ballet” (University Press of Florida 2013), and “First Position: a Century of Ballet Artists” (Praeger 2007), writes for international dance journals and websites, and has served as an advisor to the San Francisco Museum of Performance and Design. She was the University Press of Florida author representative at the 2013 Miami International Book Fair. “Fernando Alonso, the Father of Cuban Ballet” was nominated for the Latin American Student Association Bryce Award, the de la Torre Research and Dance Scholars Award, and the Commonwealth Club California Book Award.