Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s ‘Don Quixote’ returns with fresh faces in the lead roles

Principal dancer Nurlan Abougaliev in PBT's Don Quixote. Photo by Rich Sofranko.
Principal dancer Nurlan Abougaliev in PBT’s Don Quixote. Photo by Rich Sofranko.

By Steve Sucato

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre closes its 44th season with an updated production of the comedic classic Don Quixote, to be performed with the orchestra April 11-13 at the Benedum Center.

Last staged in 2007, PBT’s production of Miguel de Cervantes’ familiar story of young Spanish lovers Kitri and Basilio, and their encounter with the eccentric Don Quixote on his quest to find Dulcinea, gets a facelift with new sets and costumes. Echoing the newness of Kitri and Basilio’s love, all six dancers sharing those lead roles will be first-timers, offering a fresh perspective on the 145-year-old ballet.

One dancer is newly promoted soloist Gabrielle Thurlow. She describes Kitri’s relationship with Basilio as flirtatious and teasing. “We both know that we want to be together; we just kind of play at each other during the ballet,” says Thurlow, who will be paired with soloist Luca Sbrizzi as Basilio for the 2 p.m. performance on April 12.

Another newly promoted soloist, 26-year-old Alejandro Diaz, is tasked with the lively Basilio, a role demanding great leaping ability plus a sense of comedic timing. “Although he is penniless, he is full of himself and relies on his ability to BS his way through life,” says Diaz. “I am playing off that in my interpretation.” Diaz will partner with principal dancer Alexandra Kochis, as Kitri, in both the April 11 performance and the April 13 matinee. Soloist Amanda Cochrane and newly promoted principal dancer Yoshiaki Nakano will dance those roles 8 p.m., April 12.

While much will be new, the ballet retains its traditional choreography, by Marius Petipa and Alexander Gorsky, and will again be staged by PBT Artistic Director Terrence Orr.

Former principal dancer Ying Li in PBT's Don Quixote. Photo by Rich Sofranko.
Former principal dancer Ying Li in PBT’s Don Quixote. Photo by Rich Sofranko.

Meanwhile, veteran dancer Stephen Hadala will conclude his 16-year PBT career by reprising, in three of the ballet’s four performances, the slapstick role of Gamache, a wealthy suitor of Kitri’s often played as clumsy and effeminate.

“The character takes a lot of thought,” says Hadala. “You can’t just go out there and flail around and think it is going to be funny.”

Playing straight man to all these comedians is PBT ballet master Steven Annegarn, reprising his role as Don Quixote in all performances.

Says Annegarn: “It’s a wonderfully lighthearted production filled with some very exciting new talent.”

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre performs Don Quixote, 8 p.m. Fri., April 11; 2 and 8 p.m. Sat., April 12; and 2 p.m. Sun., April 13. Benedum Center, 719 Liberty Ave., Downtown. $25.75-96.75. 412-456-6666 or pbt.org

This article first appeared in Pittsburgh City Paper  April 9, 2014. Copyright Steve Sucato.

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