Professionals, Young Local Artists In 'Don Quixote'

Posted: March 31, 1992

When I first reviewed the Donetsk Ballet in 1989, they were a Cinderella story come to life. Stranded by their backers on their first American tour, a whirlwind fund-raising campaign booked them into first-class venues in Philadelphia, New York and Washington. The 60-member Ukrainian company was an inspiring blend of meticulous technique, showstopping energy and affecting innocence.

Many of the principals, including company superstars Inna Dorofeyeva and Vadim Pisarev and artistic director Vladimir Shumeikin, are now based here and are starting a school of classical ballet at the Wissahickon Dance Academy. This weekend they made the alliance formal with a production of Don Quixote at the Taulane Auditorium of Germantown Friends School, presented by The Performing Arts Society of Philadelphia and supplemented by a huge roster of local young guest artists.

At least, I think it was Don Quixote. Petipa and Gorsky's choreography, ''renewed" by Shumeikin, was often recognizable. The story was, well, different. The prologue was cut, as were the gypsy encampment and windmill scenes; others were reshuffled and truncated. As most of these omissions center on the Quixote character, we are often left wondering just exactly who is this doddering fool staggering through the dances with the lance and the fat friend.

But the story is not central to this Quixote. The production is primarily a chance for young dancers (some of them quite accomplished) to work with masters, to learn and hone their techniques and, perhaps most importantly, to adopt some of the crystalline classical lines so often missing from American ballet. The Donetsk dancers are immediately recognizable by the authority of their stance, their exquisitely detailed port-de-bras and highly controlled energy, and it is hoped they will pass on these virtues to their local colleagues. The enormous corps was predictably spotty, but there were several soloists (including some wonderfully focused children in the forest scene) who show great promise from the encounter.

There was, without question, some exceptional dancing here. Alexander

Boitsov whirled through every divertissement with incredible fire, Irina Boitsova was superb in her fiesta Bolero, and, of course, there were Pisarev and Dorofeyeva. Pisarev is a star and knows it. While he is a hound for applause, it is often well-deserved: His leaps and razor-sharp turns are stunning.

Dorofeyeva is an exquisite artist, a captivating combination of delicacy, incisiveness and charm. While there is little left here of Dulcinea, she effortlessly embodies the character.

With the exception of Galina Shumeikin's sumptuous costumes, the production values of the program leave much to be desired. At the Sunday matinee, flashbulbs from parents' cameras went-off by the minute, an unreliable sound system warbled its way through the Minkus score, and the postage-stamp stage left pirouetting performers often flattened against a wall. While it is a remarkable boon to the cultural health of this city to have such artists providing quality training, the Donetsk are world-class performers who deserve a more suitable venue.

Don Quixote will be performed again on April 12 at the Harrington Middle School in Mount Laurel.

comments powered by Disqus