A classic at the Phillips; modern dance at Santa Fe

The Moscow Festival Ballet performs the classic "Don Quixote" on Friday at the Phillips Center.

Special to The Sun
Published: Thursday, March 1, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, March 1, 2007 at 12:23 a.m.
Dance Theatre Santa Fe will present its annual, spring program, "Elements of Style," at the Phillips Center at 8 p.m. today.
And Friday at the Phillips, the Moscow Festival Ballet performs the dance classic "Don Quixote" at 7:30 p.m.
"Elements of Style" will feature choreography by Brian Brooks (of New York's Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater), Alberto Alonso - Santa Fe Community College's 89-year-old, master artist-in-residence - and new Santa Fe Community College Dance Professor Kristin O'Neal.
O'Neal is currently co-directing Dance Theatre Santa Fe with Tari Kendall. (Former co-director Alora Haynes now serves as chair of SFCC Visual and Performing Arts.) And the new director brings two appealing modern works to the program. One of these, "Radio Show," is a tribute to radio programs of the '30s and '40s.
"The life of the piece lies behind the sound score, which I had a ball making," says O'Neal. Audience members may recognize programs like "The Great Gildersleeve" or the Glenn Miller Orchestra and ads for its obsolete sponsors, Chesterfield Cigarettes.
"I started this piece for my great aunt, now age 80, who whistled for the Tommy Dorsey band and was broadcast over several radio shows" O'Neal says. "She was actually rather famous for her whistling - she could whistle two tunes at once."
"Radio Show" premiered in solo form last month when O'Neal performed it at the WOW Café Theatre in New York City. It has now been reconfigured for an ensemble of 18.
Thirteen dancers have the opportunity to perform in Brooks' "Ascension." Dance Theatre Santa Fe dèbuted this piece last fall as part of the Florida Dance Festival on Tour. Brooks created it as a tribute to victims and survivors of Hurricane Katrina.
"The dancers are so present in this piece . . .(that) you see the maturity of the department in this," says O'Neal, who has been overseeing rehearsals of "Ascension."
The program will close with a new work by Alonso, set to Beethoven. Alonso and his wife, Sonia Calero, have also created the salsa-inspired "Cuban Essence" for the first act.
"Elements" will also feature a new piece by faculty member Suzanne Barroso. A preview from the local Hip Hop Collective's Soul Cypher 2007 is also on the bill.
. . .
"Don Quixote," though inspired by the tragic hero of the Cervantes novel, is considered one of the most festive and joyous of the full-length ballets, bursting with virtuoso dancing in classical ballet's imitative "Spanish style."
There are many ballet adaptations of the work, beginning as early as 1740. New York City Ballet's George Balanchine notoriously created a contemporary version in 1965, set to music of Nicolas Nabokov, with the legendary choreographer himself appearing alongside his obsession, Suzanne Farrell.
But the most famous, enduring rendition comes to Gainesville Saturday night - based on the choreography of Marius Petipa and set to the music of Léon Minkus. Unlike other 19th-century ballets revered today, the Petipa adaptation was an immediate success at its 1869 Moscow premiere. Stars like Mikhail Baryshnikov have spurred the popularity of "Don Quixote" into the present day.
The novel's central characters are pivotal, of course, in the ballet version: the chivalrous title character, his faithful (and comic) companion and Dulcinea - the ideal lady who captivates the Don's delusional dreams.
But lesser characters are brought to the ballet's forefront: Kitri, the flirtatious villager; Gamache, her unsuccessful wealthy suitor; and Basil, the young barber whom Kitri loves. Their story is further complicated by the Don's, for the aged "knight errant" views Kitri as his beloved Dulcinea.
The ballet is notable for its democratic spirit, which is uncharacteristic for its art and era. Here, the only "noble cavalier" is Gamache, who fails to win the ballerina's heart. Kitri and Basil, however, are heroes of the people, and their grand pas de deux is renown across the globe.
Sarah Ingley can be reached at Scene@gvillsun.com.

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