DanceView Times, New York edition
Can anyone top Paloma Herrera's fearless power and total poise in Don Quixote? She is the consummate Kitri. Her dancing matches the ballet's need for pyrotechnics and flourish. In the age of superhuman athletes like Alex Rodriguez and LeBron James, she's the Extreme Ballerina, blending strength and grace.
Bocca, Herrera's partner Tuesday night, isn't too shabby either. As Basil, he is more charming than breathtaking. Nevertheless, this production (choreography by Marius Petipa and Alexander Gorsky, staged by Kevin McKenzie and Susan Jones) is a fine vehicle for these two principals. Almost a decade apart in age, Bocca fittingly plays Basil as an older suitor after a young, gorgeous creature. Herrera was intrigued with him, but could also play up the affections of other admirers.
I left Don Quixote exhilarated. Granted it's not the show for anyone interested in serious character development or put off by acrobatic flourish. It's a blend of slapstick comedy, fantastic dancing, and flirtatious love. In the last act, The Wedding, Herrera shone in the pas de deux, breezing through a triple attitude turn. Bocca took a swig from the Don's chalice before flying through a circle of leaps, hanging in the air. Herrera whipped off her fouette turns: singles, doubles—and was it three or four to finish? She looked as overjoyed as the audience which, by this point, was applauding thunderously.
But this was no exception. From her first appearance, when Kitri burst into the gathering of villagers, the excitement in watching Herrera is palpable, and deserved. She dances joy. She cares how her gorgeous feet work the floor, and her hops on pointe are strong and assured in spite of her huge arch. She fires off a path of piqués as if shooing a persistent admirer. Her steps speak.
Another eye-catching performer was Maria Riccetto, who danced "Amour" in the Act 2 Dream scene. Suitably fleet-footed for this cupid role, Riccetto is a petite dancer born in Uruguay. This was the first time I noticed her, and she is delightful. She appeared to guide the Don through a sea of maidens. It was beautiful to see how Petipa created the fog-like sense of a dream with the corps de ballet: using a minimal number of steps repeated many times to suggest waves or blurred images. Riccetto's dancing, in contrast, was sharp and capricious. Providing contrast, Michele Wiles, as Queen of the Dryads brought more of a sense of nobility and regal bearing to her classic variation.
Kitri's flower girls, Renata Pavam and Misty Copeland, were lively characters and beautiful dancers. As members of the corps de ballet sharing the spotlight with these principals, they faced a challenge, especially when their solos were interspersed in the Grand Pas de Deux between variations by Bocca and Herrera. Pavam and Copland consistently rose to the occasion, making me curious to see more of them.
Ethan Brown in the title role was endearing, reminding us of Don Quixote's absentmindedness every time he let go of his spear and walked away ((Julio Bragado-Young as Sancho Panza dutifully stepped in and caught it before it fell). My one disappointment is that Monique Meunier seems to be as underused with ABT as she was with New York City Ballet. As Mercedes, she got to kick her leg high once in a while, but the role doesn't give her the chance to display her fabulous turns, or dignified grace.
Throughout the evening, the South Americans really stole the show. The corps de ballet in their matador suits and ruffled skirts boosted the lively rapport, but Bocca and Herrera, from Buenos Aires, and Riccetto, from Montevideo, Uruguay, brought fire and flair to a production that welcomes such theatrics.
Paloma Herrera in American Ballet Theatre's Don Quixote. Photo by Rosalie O'Connor.