Michigan Ballet Academy’s ‘Don Quixote’ delights audience of all ages
By Adrienne Warber
Signs of a good ballet production include a happy audience, dancers who performed with enthusiasm and skill, and an overall impression of a story well-told. Michigan Ballet Academy’s performance of “Don Quixote” last weekend April 13-14 at the Jenison Center for the Arts included all of these elements and more. The West Michigan classical ballet school presented a professional quality show that showcased the talent and high quality training of their student dancers.
The Vaganova Difference in Michigan Ballet Academy
Michigan Ballet Academy’s selection of “Don Quixote” was a wise choice to showcase the beauty and strength of the school’s Vaganova Method training focus. The classical ballet school is the only studio in West Michigan that specializes in the Vaganova Method, developed by Russian dancer and master teacher Agrippina Vaganova. The “Don Quixote” ballet was first performed by at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, Russia in 1869, featuring choreography by Marius Petipa and set to music by Ludwig Minkus. Michigan Ballet Academy Artistic Director, Irina Vassileni, a Bolshoi Ballet Academy graduate and former Bolshoi Ballet dancer, restaged the production based on the original Petipa choreography and Bolshoi standards.
There was great elegance, athleticism and strong definition to the technique in the “Don Quixote” performance. The Vaganova training was apparent in even the youngest dancers. It was certainly notable in the leaps, arabesques, the highly developed flexibility in movement and the discipline of the posture.
Michigan Ballet Academy’s ‘Don Quixote’
Michigan Ballet Academy student performers of all age levels and abilities, who ranged in age from 7-19, danced with strong Vaganova method classical ballet technique. The student dancers also showed a joy of dance in their performance, which was a delight to behold.
Two guest artists performed with the students in the show. Bruce Jarvis, a former professional dancer whose career included performing with the National Ballet of Mexico and the Indianapolis Ballet Theater, was a perfect Don Quixote, who set the tone for the comedy and drama of the show. Francis Lawrence, whose career includes dancing with the Australian Ballet Company, New York Theatre Ballet and Grand Rapids Ballet, who currently works as a choreographer and dance teacher in New York, played Basilio. Lawrence danced with great athleticism and strong technique as Basilio. He was paired well with Michigan Ballet Academy student Abigail Batts as Kitri. Their pas de deux numbers were professional level and truly lovely to watch.
Abigail Batts did an exceptional job as Kitri. She danced with such a strong level of classical ballet technique, athleticism, elegance and emotion. She gave a professional level performance in her role. This young dancer has a great future in dance ahead of her.
It was impressive how well-coordinated the numbers were and how seamlessly the dancers worked together with skill and well-developed musicality. “Don Quixote” included numbers that required dancers to simultaneously dance and play a musical instrument. For instance, one piece required Kitri (Batts) to play the castanets as she danced. Some dancers played tambourines during numbers.
The show also included many lively pieces with character dancing. Michigan Ballet Academy offers character dancing classes, which are not available at every dance studio. Dancing in character shoes requires a different set of skills than dancing in ballet slippers or pointe shoes. The dancers did a good job with the character dance numbers, which added to the authentic Spanish dance feel of the original “Don Quixote” ballet.
“Don Quixote” also featured very skillful pointe technique. Both beginning pointe and advanced pointe dancers performed their numbers with strong elements of technique, posture and elegance. It was the skillful dancing that created the beauty and tone of the scenes.
The show was enjoyable and an example of the high level of training student dancers receive at Michigan Ballet Academy. The audience and the dancers were all happy with the success of the show. There were smiles on everyone’s faces.
Parents looking for a classical ballet school for their child should consider Michigan Ballet Academy. Dancers looking for more performance opportunities should also consider Michigan Ballet Academy’s open auditions for their shows. The Michigan Ballet Academy auditions for their shows are open to any dance student in West Michigan, even those enrolled in other studios. For more information about Michigan Ballet Academy, visit their website or facebook page.