Back to Stage

Leaping at windmills

A dancing don from Ballet Northwest

Ballet Northwest’s 2019 production Don Quixote hits the stage this weekend at the Washington Center for the Performing Arts. Photo courtesy of Ballet Northwest

Recommend Article
Total Recommendations (0)
Clip Article Email Article Print Article Share Article

In early 17th-century Spain, on the plains of La Mancha near the town of El Toboso, a brave hidalgo (minor nobleman) and self-declared knight-errant mounts his timeworn steed to square off against dozens of titanic foes. "Fly not, cowards and vile beings," cries the hero born Alonso Quixano, "for a single knight attacks you!" Clearing his mind, then, of everything but victory and his heart's desire, he raises a lance and charges at full gallop. Then the dancing begins.

Wait ... What?

That hero of legend, whom we know better as protagonist Don Quixote of Miguel de Cervantes' classic novel, inspired an 1871 ballet of the same name by choreographer Marius Petipa and composer Ludwig Minkus. Ballet Northwest will stage that romantic adventure in pointe shoes for The Washington Center next weekend under the guidance of the group's co-artistic directors, Josie and Ken Johnson. The ballet focuses on an episode from Part II of the novel, in which Quixote and his squire, Sancho Panza, attend the wedding of barber Basilio and Quiteria the fair (Kitri in the ballet). In Petipa's adaptation, Quixote mistakes Kitri for his dear Dulcinea. Meanwhile, Ken Johnson explains, "Kitri's father, Lorenzo the innkeeper (Joel Getzendanner), doesn't want Kitri (Natalie Allenton) to marry Basilio (Giovanny Garibay) ... and instead wants her to marry the rich nobleman Gamache (Chad Lumenarcus), who's a bit of a fool." The company is especially proud of 15-year-old Garibay. "He just came back from New York," says Johnson, "where he competed in the finals for the Youth America Grand Prix, which is a world-renowned ballet competition. ... He made a lot of great contacts with dancers and teachers from all over the world. ... This ballet really suits him well, and one of the pieces he competed with was the male solo from Don Quixote."

"We premiered Don Quixote in 2015 for Ballet Northwest's 45th anniversary," says Johnson. "We produced the sets here in Olympia. They were designed here in Olympia and painted in Olympia by local, professional artists and volunteers. ... They're an asset we can rent to other companies." Neither Panza nor Quixote is the type of lithe character we expect from ballet but, Johnson adds, "We've got a great lineup of adult-character artists who've performed with us before." The choreography is partly original, partly from productions by Mikhail Baryshnikov for American Ballet Theatre and Alexei Ratmansky for the Dutch National Ballet.

"It's an exciting challenge for the dancers," says Johnson, "to portray that Spanish essence and get those Spanish characters across, so they're using fans and tambourines and castanets -- which is not something they do every day. ... We actually have a flamenco choreographer, who came in and worked with our ‘gypsy' dancers, so that was a real treat and something that's different from our usual shows."

The best is yet to come for Ballet Northwest, which is nearing its half-century mark. "We're the oldest ballet company in the state of Washington," Johnson continues proudly. "In January (2020), we're having a 50th-anniversary gala and reunion at The Washington Center, with special guests, professional ballet stars and a lot of celebratory events for alumni and people who've been affiliated with the organization throughout the years."

BALLET NORTHWEST'S DON QUIXOTE, 7:30 p.m., Friday, May 10; 2 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, May 11 and 12, The Washington Center for the Performing Arts, 512 Washington St. SE, Olympia, $26-$38, 360.753.8586,

comments powered by Disqus

Site Search