Bolshoi Ballet Don Quixote Review,
July 23


Kristina Kretova and Mikhail Lobukhin, Don Quixote. Click for more photos.

I wondered why the Bolshoi cast a leading soloist, Kristina Kretova, in the principal role of Kitri in Don Quixote for the Wednesday evening performance at Koch Theater, Lincoln Center; after all, this is a tough principal role. After a great performance in which she stole the show, I wonder why the 30-year old is still a soloist as she captivated the crowd with her great technique, radiant smile, and exuberant confidence.

Kristina radiated energy, with exaggerated arm movements and expressiveness, punctuated by laughter. Technically, her balances and fouettés stood out in the third act pas de deux. On one occasion, she balanced in attitude and her partner, Mikhail Lobukhin, offered his hand. She rejected the offer as if to say, “I really don’t need your help.” There were several other nice balances, although none were freakishly long like Polina Semionova’s. Her fouettés started with a double pirouette, alternating with single and doubles for the first part, then singles for the remainder of the sequence, punctuated with a nice controlled double pirouette.

Pia Catton of The Wall Street Journal had a nice profile of her. Kristina graduated from the Bolshoi’s feeder school in 2002, but went to a lesser company, the Kremlin Ballet Theater as a soloist, for fear she would languish in the corps at the Bolshoi. She joined the Bolshoi in 2011 where she has danced lead roles in Giselle, Swan Lake, and Onegin.

Her partner Basilio was Mikhail Lobukhin, a Principal Dancer who joined the Bolshoi in 2010 from the Mariinsky. Mikhail was also in good form, showing off his bag of tricks including turning switch kicks, pirouettes, and a funky step from a coupe grand jete in which he does one turn in the air in a seated position (I’m not sure if this step has a name) that drew gasps from the audience. Somewhat unusual, he turns counterclockwise, fairly rare among men (see my post on direction preference in ballet). He had a conventional first solo with rapid double sautés in passé, turns in attitude and plié arabesque, a diagonal of double tours to the knee with great flair, finished off with a triple pirouette to a double tour. His second solo consisted of a diagonal of scissor kicks and unimpressive barrel turns in a circle. His turn sequence (after he adjusted his bullfighter vest) was turns à la seconde, pulling in to turns in arabesque in plié to the knee.

They were a nice pair as he matched her abundant energy. The partnering sections were smooth, although the one-handed lifts in the first act probably did not go as well as they originally planned.

It wasn’t just the leads that were great on Wednesday. The Bolshoi Don Quixote has many dancing roles and the company showed its great depth with numerous solid performances. Denis Rodkin showed substantial flair as Espada the bullfighter, dancing while tossing his cape with abandon, matched by Mercedes, Kristina Karasyova. Queen of the Dryads Anna Nikulina had a nice solo with controlled and effortless arms with a series of double pirouettes from first position with arms in fifth position (overhead).

I roll my eyes when people criticize the plot of Don Quixote. It’s not meant to be a great story; it’s designed to be a vehicle for bravura dancing. On this front, the Bolshoi succeeded Wednesday. As for the Bolshoi version, the first act in the village is similar to ABT’s. Act II consists of three scenes. The first is Basilio’s comic “suicide” in an effort to win over Kitri. The second scene takes place at a tavern. I really didn’t follow this part as there were several somber dances. Also, dances from Mercedes and A Street Dancer (Anna Tikhomirova), although I didn’t follow the relationship. Part three of the second act is Don Quixote’s dream, featuring dances from the Dryads. Act III is the wedding and grand pas de deux.

The Bolshoi has curtain call bows at the end of every act. I find this irritating and a waste of time. I don’t know if this is a Russian feature but find it unnecessary.

The sets were beautiful, particularly in Act I. One unique feature is numerous flags that flow in the wind, possibly accomplished by fans blowing off stage.

This was my second Bolshoi performance; the first was Swan Lake with Olga Smirnova and Semyon Chudin. It is difficult to assess a company after only two performances, but I found the company very deep, with solos nicely done by the leads. The Bolshoi’s Swan Lake, Don Quixote, and Spartacus are not the best versions as Robert Greskovic of the Wall Street Journal and Alastair Macaulay of the New York Times have noted. While one can complain about their repertory performed in New York, nobody can complain about the level of dancing.