The standing ovation at the matinee of Miami City Ballet's season closer, Don Quixote, Saturday, March 22, at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts was a good indication that classical ballet lives and breathes in South Florida. Furthermore, it showed that it holds its own against the Ultra/WMC/MMW fests that dominate the local season.
Maybe our northern brethren have come down to take a break from the unrelenting winter with sights set only on our beaches, but the original adventurer, Don Q, seems to be as appropriate a springtime subject as any with his passionate, intense, humorous, and greater-than-life bravura.
With original choreography by Marius Petipa and Alexander Gorsky, and music by Léon Minkus, Don Quixote, with its Hispanic flavor, was a suitable choice for Edward Villella in 2006, when MCB first premiered the ballet. It was not only a nod to our diverse Latin community but also a good choice to show off the diverse skills of the dancers themselves -- the ballet provides for a range of expressions, from street drama rich in characters to a chance to exhibit virtuosic performances.
That hasn't changed. The current production, now under the direction of Lourdes Lopez and coming to Miami this weekend, incorporates jaw-dropping sets and costumes courtesy of the American Ballet Theater. It's a three-act show, one that moves from the public square in Seville full of nobles, peasants, flower girls, and flashy bull fighters, to the wilderness full of good-natured and uninhibited gypsies, then to Don Quixote's dreamscape as he trades windmills for visions of his Dulcinea.
For this season finale, Miami audiences will see the debut of Nathalia Arja in the lead role of Kitri. A native of Rio de Janeiro, Arja joined MCB as a school apprentice in 2009, was promoted to corps de ballet in 2011, and just this month was promoted to soloist for the upcoming 2014-15 season.
Arja shared her thoughts on her current and future roles.
Artburst Miami: What has been your experience of preparing for such a big role like Kitri? What has been the biggest challenge?
Nathalia Arja: It's been quite intense but at the same time very fun. Kitri is definitely my favorite role of all classical ballets. The biggest challenge for me was definitely rehearsing a full-length ballet every single day.
Why do you think Don Quixote continues to be a favorite among dancers and audiences for well over 100 years?
Don Quixote is one of my favorite ballets especially because of the style -- "the Latin style." It's fun for me because I am able to bring a little bit of my culture to the character of Kitri. I personally think Don Quixote is a favorite full-length ballet for audiences because it has a little bit of everything -- the choreography is spectacular, the sets and costumes are incredible, and it's funny. It's impossible for you to watch Don Quixote and not have fun. The ballet takes you on a really exciting journey.
How does the role of Kitri compare to performing other classical ballets or more contemporary ones?
I think what's hard about performing the role of Kitri compared to other ballets that I've done is the fact that there is a story behind it, and I have to be able to tell this story and have the audience follow me through every single act.
What has this time in your career been like for you?
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This season has been amazing for me and very challenging in so many ways. I'm so thankful for each opportunity. I've learned and grown a lot, and I'm definitely excited about my promotion, but I think what matters the most for me is just to be on stage no matter which role or which ballet. What makes a dancer fully happy is being able to bring our hard work from the studios to the stage.
-- Miguel Angel Estefan Jr., artburstmiami.com
Miami City Ballet performs Program IV: Don Quixote at the Ziff Ballet Opera House in the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, 1300 Biscayne Blvd. Miami, this Friday through Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.. Tickets cost $20 to $95. Visit miamicityballet.org.