Dance review: Ballet Nacional de Cuba opens at the Pavilion in 'Don Quixote'
Has Ballet Nacional de Cuba been on the road too long? Opening in the full-length “Don Quixote” at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion on Thursday the company displayed the extraordinary depth of training, technical bravado and expressive warmth that make it unique -- indeed, a joy. However, unison execution proved problematic throughout the first half of the ballet -- especially among the men. Even in the generally sharp final divertissement, the pas de quatre found Roberto Vega and Osiel Gounod badly mismatched.
The group dancing ought to tighten up with repeat performances (through Sunday). But the rumpled cloth scenery by Salvador Fernández also suggests a shabby touring compromise. Created in 1988, the production by Alicia Alonso, Marta Garcia and Maria Elena Llorente adopts much of the familiar Petipa/Gorsky choreography but sets the action during the French occupation of Spain. Thus, as always, Don Quixote seeks his vision of the perfect woman, but now also exemplifies native resistance to the invader.
This social/political context conditions but never obstructs the celebratory nature of the work,
or the star performances at its center. Indeed, for Latin fire, high-speed bravura and drop-dead exactitude, Anette Delgado's performance of Kitri owned the night. The balances, the extensions, the turns, the flying splits, the freedom in the lifts -- here was a virtuoso dancer in her element. Her only failing: a rather constricted, emotionally vacant lyricism in the dream scene.
As Basilio, Dani Hernández looked so young that he probably needed a note from his mother to stay up as late as Act 3. But he partnered Delgado strongly, danced every demanding solo faultlessly and exhibited exemplary classical line down to the tips of his long, long feet.
As the Dryad Queen, Amaya Rodríguez dominated the 16-member corps with the gracious amplitude that Delgado lacked, while Maureen Gil appropriately won all hearts as Amor with her fleet precision. Always veiled, Ariadna Súarez as Dulcinea did indeed seem a vision of miraculous equilibrium.
The rechoreographed and none-too-musical gypsy interlude featured exciting passages for Yanier Gómez, and Leandro Pérez made a noble sweetie of the title role and partnered ably. Javier Sánchez bumbled effectively as Sancho.
The most extensive mime duties fell to Ernesto Álvarez as Kitri's oppressive suitor and Félix Rodríguez as her father. Both served the ballet capably, though they seemed downright demented when continually unable to locate Kitri, who seemed to be wearing the only red dress in all of Spain.
Giovanni Duarte expertly conducted the L.A. Opera Orchestra in the antique score by Ludwig Minkus.
-- Lewis Segal
Ballet Nacional de Cuba in “Don Quixote,” Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Los Angeles Music Center, 135 N. Grand Ave., downtown L.A., 7:30 p.m. Friday, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. $30-$120. Length: 2 hours, 20 minutes. Different principals alternate through the run. (213) 972-0711 and www.musiccenter.org,
Photo: Anette Delgado as Kitri, above, with the corps and below with Leandro Pérez as Don Quixote. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho/Los Angeles Times