Boston Ballet Principal Misa Kuranaga on Mastering Kitri's Spitfire Flair

High-octane precision: Kuranga as Kitri in Don Quixote. Gene Schiavone, Courtesy Boston Ballet.

Don Quixote's Kitri is one of the feistiest characters in classical ballet. Nowhere is that more clear than in Don Q's gregarious first act. After an exhausting series of dances with her equally temperamental boyfriend, Basilio, she tops everything off with a fast-paced, high-energy variation full of Spanish flavor. Boston Ballet principal Misa Kuranaga shares her advice on mastering the fiery solo.

​1. Say Everything with Your Entrance

Set the tone before the dancing even begins. "You have to run onstage like a bullet, full of energy," says Kuranaga, "but it still has to be nicely done." Meanwhile, maintain a strong, Spanish-style épaulement—think flamenco dancer. "Keep your upstage shoulder up and twist your torso open." In Boston Ballet's version, choreographed by Rudolf Nureyev, Kitri uses castanets, clacking them feverishly as she runs in and throughout the variation. However, they can make your hands look awkward and unnatural. "You have to drop your wrists to make it look like you're playing with them."

​2. It's All in the Footwork

After an explosive développé and pirouette en dedans, Kitri travels upstage with sprightly runs on pointe. "I try to really overcross my front foot in front of the back foot, stepping diagonally back," says Kuranaga. "Then the back leg has to meet it to cover space."

3. Anticipate Positions

Gene Schiavone, Courtesy Boston Ballet

Midway through the variation, Kitri completes a series of huge sissonnes with the back leg in attitude, as if kicking the head. But try not to throw the moment away—use the assemblé beforehand to gather your energy into a solid fifth position plié. "For the sissonne, I think about finishing the position in the air, and then throw my head back—but not too hard," says Kuranaga.

As you land, anticipate the quick piqué and fouetté attitude that comes next. "After the sissonne, I don't shift my weight onto my front leg too much," says Kuranaga. "I keep my weight in the middle so that I can shift it quickly to my left leg for the next step."

4. ​Fifth, Fifth, Fifth

For the final passage of traveling pirouettes, try to finish each one in a clean fifth position (especially since you're in effacé, which exposes how far apart your feet are). "I always aim for a perfect fifth—otherwise it looks really sloppy," Kuranaga says. Use the spring up to and down from pointe to propel you forward.

5. ​Keep It Together

Between the accelerating music, the stage full of enthusiastic villagers and the lineup of matadors waving their capes, it's easy to succumb to an adrenaline rush. "You have so much energy, but you always have to hit the positions," says Kuranaga. "That's the key to not looking messy and out of control."

News
The Joffrey Ballet's Amanda Assucena and Greig Matthews in Cathy Marston's Jane Eyre. Cheryl Mann, Courtesy Joffrey Ballet.

Wonder what's going on in ballet this week? We've rounded up some highlights.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by BLOCH
Courtesy BLOCH

Today's ballet dancer needs a lot from a pointe shoe. "What I did 20 years ago is not what these dancers are doing now," says New York City Ballet shoe manager Linnette Roe. "They are expected to go harder, longer days. They are expected to go from sneakers, to pointe shoes, to character shoes, to barefoot and back to pointe shoes all in a day."

The team at BLOCH developed their line of Stretch Pointe shoes to address dancer's most common complaints about the fit and performance of their pointe shoes. "It's a scientific take on the pointe shoe," says Roe. Dancers are taking notice and Stretch Pointe shoes are now worn by stars like American Ballet Theatre principal Isabella Boylston, who stars in BLOCH's latest campaign for the shoes.

We dug into the details of Stretch Pointe's most game-changing features:

Keep reading... Show less
News
Herman Cornejo in Don Quixote. Gene Schiavone, Courtesy ABT.

American Ballet Theatre's fall season at Lincoln Center's Koch Theater offers a chance to see the company in shorter works and mixed-repertoire programs. This year's October 16–27 run honors principal Herman Cornejo, who's celebrating his 20th anniversary with the company. Cornejo will be featured in a special celebratory program as well as a new work by Twyla Tharp (her 17th for the company), set to Johannes Brahms' String Quartet No. 2 in G Major, Op. 111. The October 26 program will include Cornejo in a pas de deux with his sister, former ABT dancer Erica Cornejo.

Keep reading... Show less
Ballet Careers
Gray Davis with wife, ABT soloist Cassandra Trenary, after his graduation from the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy. Courtesy Trenary.

When Gray Davis retired from American Ballet Theatre in July of 2018, he moved home to South Carolina, unsure of what would come next. Last month, just over a year later, Davis graduated from the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy. Today, he's working as a deputy for the Abbeville County Sheriff's Office.

Though Davis danced in ABT's corps for 11 years and is married to soloist Cassandra Trenary, to many he's best known for saving the life of a man who was pushed onto the subway tracks in New York City in 2017. The heroic effort earned him the New York State Liberty Medal, the highest civilian honor bestowed by a member of the New York State Senate. We caught up with Davis to hear about how the split second decision he made in the subway affected the course of his life, what it's been like starting a second career and what he sees as the similarities between ballet and law enforcement.

Keep reading... Show less