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When Pennsylvania Ballet premieres artistic director Angel Corella’s Don Quixote on March 3 at Philadelphia’s Academy of Music, it will be the company’s first time performing the audience favorite. With his artistic tenure well underway, and his own experiences to draw from, Corella’s vision is clear.

According to Corella, PAB’s production is all about authenticity—something he strived for during his own iconic interpretations of the role of Basilio. He plans to keep the classic Petipa choreography but refine the characters, including the gypsies in Act II. “I want to make people’s reactions real,” he says, “instead of, ‘Oh, hi, let’s dance together.’ ”

Authenticity also means coaching the dancers in tiny details, like the way women hold their fans. “In Spain, we had a vocabulary of the fan,” says Corella. “If you used it to cover your eyes, it meant you were looking for a man.” To complete the production, he will add bits of flamenco choreography and has gone costume shopping in Spain. His mother even helped decorate the bullfighter jackets.

Corella feels uniquely qualified to stage Don Quixote because of his Spanish heritage. “My ancestors are from Spain and my family is even mentioned in Cervantes’ book,” he says, in a scene contrasting the character Dulcinea with some wealthy families. “I don’t know if people believe in reincarnation, but it feels so natural for me to picture myself in that period of time—what life used to be like.”

Check out this behind-the-scenes video from Pennsylvania Ballet, to get a glimpse of the sets and choreography!

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