When Moscow Festival Ballet took the Mainstage in the University at Buffalo Center for the Arts on Tuesday night in “Don Quixote,” I experienced a feeling of déjà vu as if I had seen this Russian touring company before. Apart from a few personnel changes, essentially I did last March at UB in “Swan Lake,” only then it was called the Russian National Ballet Theatre. Whatever the moniker, it was good to see these talented dancers again.
The troupe’s family-friendly and traditional ballet version of Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote told the familiar story of young Spanish lovers Kitri and Basilio and their encounter with the eccentric Don Quixote on his quest to find his Dulcinea.
The 145-year-old comedic ballet in three acts has music by Leon Minkus and choreography by Marius Petipa. It opened with a prologue in which Don Quixote (Dmitriy Romanov) looked over books in his study recounting tales of knights and quests. The tall Romanov played Quixote as a somewhat stiff moving dreamer who often appeared to be in a mental fog. He, along with clownish sidekick Sancha Panza (Alexander Yakolev), then set out on their own knightly quest. In Barcelona, they met innkeeper’s daughter Kitri, danced marvelously by the wispy Maria Sokolnikova, and the poor barber Basilio, danced with vigor by Eldar Sarsenbayev.
Act I continued with the two lovers teasing one another and flirting with fellow townsfolk, yet always ending up back in each other’s arms. Sokolnikova was endearing as Kitri, her infectious smile complemented by technically beautiful leaps and turns. In turn, Sarsenbayev as the cocky Basilio was a solid partner to Sokolnikova and equally adroit in his dancing.
The Act’s humor got amped up when Kitri’s father (Evgeniy Rudakov) began to push a marriage to the clumsy but wealthy suitor Comacho (Anton Baglikov) on Kitri, which she dismissed via several cute slapstick encounters with him.
Also of note was a bullfight-inspired dance featuring company standout Maria Klueva and her cape-wielding partner Konstantin Marikin. The alluring and mischievous Klueva – the bull to Marikin’s matador – danced elegantly in and around waving capes and a series of cups set at her feet, and the performances of Eriko Noritake and Hanna Zimorelienko as Kitri’s feisty friends.
After an Act II scene at a gypsy encampment in which a riled up Don Quixote charged and dispersed a Petroushka-like puppet show and then passed out from the excitement, Quixote dreamt of Dulcinea, danced by Klueva, as being the queen of the wood nymphs. The scene to open Act III was picturesque and contained some of the nicest dancing in the ballet by the troupe’s female corps de ballet including a sprightly solo by Noritake.