Went to the opening night of Don Quixote last night, it was a great time! The company as a whole did a fanstastic job with this big, well-known classic. Nathan Griswold gave a charming, whimsical portrayal of Don Q, a part that can easily become campy or underplayed in the wrong hands. He's a wonderful actor, and managed to find the balance between humor and also that sense of longing for youthful excitement that is so essential to the character. Jacob Bush and Jared Tan both also showed off impressive acting skills in the character roles of Gamache and Sancho Panza, respectively. Another highlight for me was Francesca Loi as Mercedes, who truly commanded the stage every time she danced. Her opening variation was dynamite, the backbends during the "cup dance" section were fearless, and I found myself hoping that Mercedes got a final solo in the wedding variations at the end (unfortunately she does not. Maybe Gennadi can add one for her?).
For opening night, Erica Alvarado danced the role of Kitri, with Sergio Masero-Olarte as her Basilio. I noticed Masero-Olarte's partnering skills during his performance of Arabian in Nutcracker, and he made the many difficult lifts in Don Q look effortless. His solo dancing was strong as well (he has a huge jump), and he seemed to be genuinely enjoying himself out on stage. Maserio-Olarte and Alavarado had nice chemistry, kept the audience engaged throughout, and I genuinely enjoyed their portrayals of Basilio, Kitri and their youthful romance. As I mentioned earlier, partnering was excellent, the lifts and balances all looked effortless, a little bit of wobbling in some of the earlier supported pirouettes, but this seemed to resolve itself as the night went on (and I'll be the first to say I don't know enough about ballet partnering to know why that happens/who's fault it is). After watching Erica Alvarado's performance I can see why she was cast in the role. She has a great jump, gorgeous extension, and the technical chops for this demanding part. At the very beginning she seemed a bit tentative, but after the opening solos she started to come out of her shell, and by the time Don Q arrived on the scene I felt she was fully in character. She also handled those (in)famous fouettes like a champ, with a couple doubles at the beginning and finishing up with a long string of neat singles, which honestly I prefer. Gorgeous, effortless singles have a much bigger effect than labored, precarious doubles or triples.
In the Dryads section Airi Igarashi gave a strong performance as Amore, and Emily Carrico, dancing the Queen, showed off her regal and gorgeous dancing at the beginning of this section. However she fell off pointe in one of the Italian fouettes (and I think in one of the balances too, though not sure), and you could see the disappointment on her face throughout her remaining dancing. It's in these moments that you almost wish you tell the dancer that a) 99% of the audience didn't notice and b) of the 1% that did, most realize that's a really tough step, you are human and sometimes you fall off pointe, no big deal. I'm personally as an audience member am willing to forgive a multitude of technical sins for a truly moving, artistic performance, though I do understand the desire for perfection that comes with many of the classical arts.
Finally, I loved Nadia Mara and Jackie Nash as Kitri's friends. They are both such strong, exciting dancers, with excellent stage presence. If the Atlanta ballet decided to run a show of the macarena featuring Nadia Mara and Jackie Nash I would probably go. Corps looked good, though I wish they got to dance a bit more (this is probably why I love Balanchine so much, he lets the corps really dance in a way that most of the classical rep does not). Also this production was accompanied by a live orchestra, which is always a treat for a regional company.
So overall, great job Atlanta Ballet, if you are in the city over the next two weekends and looking for a fun outing, I would highly recommend going to see this ballet!