The ballet Don Quixote offers its principal ballerina the unique chance to play two different characters in one role:there's Kitri herself, a vivacious village girl, and then Dulcinea, Don Quixote's idealized love, who takes on the form of Kitri in his dream. The Paris Opéra Ballet's Aurélie Dupont, a former étoile and now the company's artistic director, creates distinct personas for each incarnation of her character. In this clip from a 2002 performance, Dupont dances Dulcinea's variation with serene precision, embodying the mystical beauty of Don Quixote's imagination.
Jurgita Dronina as Kitri in "Don Quixote." Photo by Angela Sterling, Courtesy National Ballet of Canada.
When Jurgita Dronina first danced Kitri for a guest performance of Don Quixote with Teatro Filarmonico-Fondazione Arena Di Verona, she was in essence cast against type. "Before Kitri, I was dancing only lyrical or dramatic roles, so I had to start from scratch in finding my own signature in the steps and my own interpretation of the character," says Dronina, who was dancing with Royal Swedish Ballet at the time.
Susan Jaffe. Photo by Daniel Sorine via Redbubble.
Kitri’s Act I variation in Don Quixote is short—but not exactly sweet. Though this clip from a 90s documentary lacks the ballet’s usual setting of matadors milling around a Spanish plaza, former American Ballet Theatre principal Susan Jaffe doesn’t need scenery to draw her audience in. Kitri’s power moves are all about passion, and they require a certain abandon. Jaffe delivers. From the moment she snaps her fingers in her preparation to that crowd-pleasing diagonal of consecutive pirouettes, she’s all fire and spice.
Since retiring in 2002, Jaffe has been a major player in the ballet world, choreographing, teaching, judging, serving on boards and receiving awards. She’s currently the Dean of Dance at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, and she firmly believes that a ballerina’s magic lies in the depth of her artistry, not the height of her extensions. (We 100 percent agree. Though, admittedly, both are nice!) Happy #ThrowbackThursday.
Harvey as Kitri in Don Quixote. Photo by Martha Swope, via CriticalDance.org
Ballet is nothing without technique, but when a performance is accompanied by nothing more than that, it loses its allure. Not so in this 1983 clip of American Ballet Theatre’s Cynthia Harvey in Don Quixote. Here, she’s a breath of fresh air, striking the perfect balance between technique and artistry. She blends the clean lines garnered by years of training with the effusive personality of Kitri—neither aspect overshadows the other.
Although Harvey is surrounded by dancers, she stands out in part due to her sparkling charisma. She embodies Kitri’s character so well that it’s easy to forget that you’re watching a performer. Although the tempo gets increasingly faster, Harvey remains steadfast in her movements, making them fuller and more dynamic. Watch the ease with which she transitions from her waltz turns into a series of chaînés and développés at 1:30. The energy and excitement she brings to each step is magnetic, creating lasting snapshots for the audience to take with them.
In May, Harvey became the artistic director of American Ballet Theatre’s Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School. In addition to her work with the En Avant Foundation, a non-profit committed to mentoring young dancers, Harvey remains an active contributor to the dance world, bringing notoriety wherever she goes. Happy #ThrowbackThursday!
Walking may seem like the simplest moment you have on stage. But the way in which you take a step can reveal volumes about your character. In Pointe’s April/May issue, four dancers spoke with writer Joseph Carman about how they approach the walking and running in their signature roles. Here, Boston Ballet principal Erica Cornejo offers her take on Kitri’s steps.
Role: Kitri in Don Quixote
Being Spanish, Kitri’s movement is sexy and spicy. When I walk or run, I feel the weight of my skirt. I also play with my shoulders and my hands, either placing them on my hips or grabbing the skirt, moving it from side to side. I run with the energy of my upper body, with my chest thrust forward—and with really fast feet!
In the second act dream scene as the vision of Dulcinea, I have to calm down. The walk is slower, soft—like a dreamy illusion. You also have to remember that Don Quixote is dreaming about Dulcinea, so she directs all of her gestures to him.
In the third act grand pas de deux, the walk is still soft, but with more life in it. Kitri’s very confident, passionate and in love. Yet she still has moments with her shoulders, flirting with Basilio, showing him she’s the sexy woman in control of everything.