Very professional and overqualified ballet dancers Andrew Chee and Vivian Zhou went to the ballet on Friday. They had a great time and they didn’t just write this article for media tickets.
CUBE, which stands for Columbia University Ballet Ensemble, is a classical ballet group that gives equal opportunity to dancers of all levels and produces a one-story ballet at the end of each semester. Don Quixote is known to most as a classic required reading in LitHum. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately), some of us do not participate in The Core™. Thus, we were well prepared for a 2-hour rendition of a story we knew nothing about through ballet, which we also know nothing about.
Don Quixote was a three-day production, with a show on Friday, April 12th at 8 PM, Saturday, April 13th at 8 PM, and Sunday, April 14th at 2 PM. It was directed by artistic director Kayla Glaser, with assistance from executive director Sophie Ware, and assistant artistic directors Asela Eatenson and Grace Miner. The show presented itself to be an engaging and comedic performance brought to life by not only the dancers’ incredible ballet skills but also the use of props, costumes, music, and acting.
The costumes and props were highly appreciated, but they led to some questions. Is the girl in the brown dress supposed to be a bull because she keeps running into the red cape held by the toreador? Why was the windmill prop so small? What is the significance of color coding the skirts of the ensemble dancers? Is Gamache supposed to be dressed like a rich man with his clown wig? Why do some of the male ballet dancers wear actual pants whereas others wear skintight leggings that aren’t holding anything back? Why are Cupid, Dulcinea, and Queen of Dryads dressed like they’re going to high school prom?
Questions aside, the costumes were very helpful in identifying the characters. For example, it was evident that Lorenza was, in fact, Kitri’s mother because she was wearing a long, black lace dress and black heels, and her hair was in a bun. Although over exaggerated, audience members could easily tell that Gamache was meant to be a wealthier man than Basilio because of the way he was dressed. The dream scene had especially nice costumes for the dream corps– they were dressed as angels and their tutus, a sheer white, made it seem like they were dancing on clouds. The style of some of the costumes, like Kitri’s costume, along with the flowers in the hair and the fans really set the show in central Spain. Not only do the costumes help identify the characters, they also help gauge the personality of the characters. Don Quixote and Sancho Panza wear red, a more merry and comedic color whereas Basilio wears black, which is more toned down. The music was a little bit choppy– it cut off early or late many times and the transitions were rough. This made it a little awkward for some of the dancers because they would be ready before the music started or the music would play before they’re onstage. However, the music did seem very appropriate to the show and plot.
Not only are the dancers great at ballet dancing (by our professional ballet critique opinion), they are also great actors. We wouldn’t have understood that Basilio, played by Alex Susi*, was poor if he didn’t indicate it many times with arm motions and facial expressions. Lorenza, played by Elizabeth Gardner, was a great disapproving mother with her angry expressions and theatric chasing of her daughter, Kitri, played by Kasey Broekema*. It was impressive that the supporting dancers, those in the ensemble or those who were not currently doing a solo or duet, constantly engaged the audience with either their side “conversations” or their reactions to the dance going on. Don Quixote, played by Ari DeArriz and his sidekick Sancho Panza, played by Aaron Kranzler, also displayed some incredible acting, especially in the scene where Don Quixote fights the abnormally but comically small windmill.
The plot was easy to follow along in the first act but got increasingly difficult as more and more characters were introduced. Fortunately, the summary of the plot was printed on the program and discovered right after intermission. One logistical question of a non-ballet dancer was– why were there always so many people on stage not dancing? Except for large, group numbers, it seems like the production was mostly a few main characters dancing a lot in the middle while other dancers circled around and watched. Perhaps it’s because CUBE welcomes all levels of dancers and thus has a large attendance, making it difficult to allocate parts while still including everyone as much as they can in the production. Or maybe this is just how a ballet performance is supposed to be. At the end of Act 3, at Kitri and Basilio’s wedding, it seemed as if the plot had diffused and it was now just a showcase of dancers performing solos. It was interpreted as dancing to the celebration of their marriage, but it was an incredibly long celebration with many solos and duets. But that’s probably the best way to give everyone a chance to do cool dance things while still following the plot.
Ballet is typically stereotyped to be a feminine dance type, but there were several men in this production. The role of men in ballet performances also raised a few questions. Do the men just serve as support for women dancers? It seemed as if female ballet dancers are given more opportunities by going en pointe, doing pirouettes, jumping, whereas oftentimes the male dancers were there to lift them up with their strength or support their spins. Of course, some of the men also got to do a few spins themselves, but when will male ballet dancers go en pointe?
In general, CUBE’s production of Don Quixote was an excellent way to spend a Friday evening. It was obvious that a lot of effort was put in, evident by the sweat on the dancers’ faces, and it paid off. They managed to keep us alert in our seats with their incredibly impressive spinning (aren’t you guys tired or dizzy?). Kudos to CUBE for giving opportunities for all dancers to be in a production, and for putting on such a successful show.
*Some of the characters were interchanged during the different performance days. The performance being reviewed in this article is the one on Friday, April 12th at 8 PM.
“They said no photos but I took a photo” via Bwog Staff