Notes on Kitri, ACT I

Known for those insane sissones with that insane cambré back and attitude position or as contemporary dancers call them firebirds, Kitri Act I was made for the “jumping girl”. Commonly used at competition, this show-off, bravura variation gets the audience going. The reason? First, it is one of the few bravura variations for women (meaning its all turns and jumps), and secondly because the impressiveness of the technique. What most people forget, that as impressive as the jump is, or the turns, none of it matters if you aren’t turned out. Secondly, this variation has to have a lot of power, with control or else you will just look like a bull in a china shop. Thirdly, you have to embrace the spiciness of the character, which allows the port de bras to not be in classical positions… meaning style trumps classicism in the upper body.

Kitri Don Q Act 1 variation

Okay, so lets begin breaking down this variation. The opening… the castanets call for quickly turned out runs. Personally, I like it when the runs are in side profile back, so the audience sees your back and then the slightest face and smirk, and then on the jump in second, give a little spice and attack.

The opening step involves a pas de chat, a battement, and either a step over or fouetté, clean precisicions and a strong jeté in attitude, or not, or even an italian/grand pas de chat. This combination is not only fast, but it has to be precise and dead on with the music.

-In the pas de chat, make sure we see the full diamond at the height of the jump. Don’t turn in the second leg to compensate for the battement.

-Turn out the working leg in grand battement and make sure you are as flat to the audience as possible to give your body the longest line. Keep the shoulders down and head inclined slightly back to keep with the Spanish style.

-Control the come down of the working leg.

-If you are going to do a step-over make sure you turn out completely side profile/ de côte to show your heel. If you are going to do the fouetté, turn out the tombé completely in croisé and give yourself a port de bras that allows you to really get a good clean whip.

-For the runs en pointe, TRAVEL and pick your knees up, it makes it spicy.

The next sequence of steps involves that crazy sissone, and to achieve accuracy in the position, you want to make sure you get a good pop at the top. If you are going to do the double rond de jambe, make sure you are in effacé, and really get the accent out. If you are going to the attitudes, make sure each step in between is turned out.

-To get a good jump, relax your heels on the ground and build the energy from the bottom of the plié through the back of your leg.

-Make sure you don’t bend into attitude too soon, wait till you are the highest point to fold into the position.

-Land fully turned out…

The final section of this variations is the diagonal of traveling pirouettes from fifth. Make them spicy, and I prefer the accent up… and stay up. I also like it when you start with a double lame duck to give yourself momentum. This is where you can add doubles, port de bras and many other “tricks” to make the variation more exciting. The most important thing is that you hit a clean, relaxed and turnout position every time. PET PEEVE: don’t had fouettés….

Finally for the ending, you usually do an attitude and hold it… then run off… I like the attitude and then step through and take a knee. This is better for competition so you can bow.

For the more advance student: Besides the turnout being most important… make sure you you understand what lines look best on your body. In this variation, because of the quickness, the lines has to be so clear and so precise… if not, you look like you are flailing around. Another thing you need to pay attention to- eye contact with the audience without compromising the neckline. A lot of dancers interpret spicy as chin down and eyes up… making them have double chin…

For everyone: Because of the speed you have to have quick and strong footwork. You should never sickle, and your feet should point like daggers.

COSTUMING… okay be tasteful… Don’t order the revolution costume… If you want to save money, just do the variation in a red rehearsal skirt and black leotard. Don’t have this huge puffy twenty layer skirt… it is not flattering whatsoever. It is actually pretty tacky. Finally, remember the more layers you add to the skirt, the heavier it is and harder to control. Don’t make this into a can can either… I’m all for playing with the skirt… buuuut so many people turn it into the can can… which brings me to the under garment. YOU HAVE TO ATTACH the panty to the costume! You can just put on a pair of black spanks. When you turn… and move.. you see the line and your stomach…

 

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Notes on Cupid

Whether you are twelve or twenty, this variation is one of the most recognizable variations for those who have danced. For a lot, this variation was the first variation they learned in variations class (that or Florine from Sleeping Beauty). This is the variation known as Cupid from Don Quixote. This extremely fast petit allegro variation actually doesn’t have that many petit allegro steps, but the music is extremely fast. From this God awful blonde wig, to the flowy tunic, everything about this variation says, “Hello, I’m Cute.”

Notes on Cupid

Usually reserved for a short girl, this variation opens up with the a series of tombé relevés into attitude plié relevé effacé positions. You need to remember a couple things in this opening sequence:

  1. Turn out the supporting leg in the tombé.
  2. Don’t overshoot the corner, and stay square.
  3. Never whack your leg into the positions, place them nicely. If you are going to do a low effacé leg, lean over the leg to help the line. If you are going to do a high attitude back, don’t pinch your neck back to help make the line.
  4. Keep the arms exstremely soft, and keep the eyeline in all the positions.

Hold the attititude to be with the music, and change the head.

The next sequence of the variations requires a back diagonal of plié relevé pirouettes to the inside. When you are doing the chassé/tombé, TURNOUT… Hold the working knee back to give you the most turn out and longest line. Make sure you get that knee all the way straight.

The next sequence requires fast foot work, and involves you to be extremely turned out. Focus on hitting all of the positions before the music so you can hold the positions. This is important because you have to be MUSICAL.

Below is Evgenia Obraztsova doing cupid. Personally it is too slow for my taste… but the technique is spot on, and the performance is ideal. It is about being cheerful and constantly changing your facial expressions of happiness and excited. Her eyes play to the audience very well.

Mélanie Hurel of Paris Opera does another stunning version. The Nureyev version. It is more dainty, more french, faster, and done in a full tutu.

Below is Riverbank Dance Company’s young girl (2017) doing the variation on flat. While there are turn out issues, the technique is clean, and the young dancer is polished. She is probably 10? Notice in the upstage diagonal that she hits coup de pied, fifth and fourth.

A Night at the Ballet….

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Saturday, February 20th at the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center, Los Angeles Ballet world premiered Coleen Neary’s and Thordal Christensen’s Don Quixote. While the entire world seems to be doing Don Q this month, Los Angeles Ballet tackled this three-act ballet for their 10th season. The audience was filled, and there were very few seats left open in the house. Not that it was important but wearing Dolce never hurt anyone either. Which makes up for the 91 freeway being closed and because of traffic it took almost 3 hours to get there… But anyways…. Let us talk about a night at the ballet.

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Don Quixote is no easy ballet to take on; especially for a smaller company like Los Angeles Ballet. Usually, Don Q require a ridiculously large cast…. Which brings me to my first comment of the evening… Some of the corps de ballet dancers looked overworked, but with that being said the corps de ballet held the ballet together. The amount of dancing they had to do was insane. Of the corps de ballet members, Jasmine Perry looked spectacular. She definitely has grown up a lot since graduating from SAB two years ago. Other than that corps member who did show a lot of promise last season is no longer with Los Angeles Ballet… (i.e.,: Chloe Sherman left for Silicon Valley Ballet, who premiered tonight in Diane and Acteon PDD. ) The corps felt very young, mature, but young.

Of the soloists, I was disappointed not to see Alexander Castillo…. more to come on this… Bianca Bulle was paired with Kate Highstrete as Kitri’s friends in ACT 1. The two were a stellar couple and seasoned LA BALLET members. Bianca then took on Queen of the Dryads in ACT 2. Gorgeous technique and musicality with flares of Balanchine port de bras here and there. Kate Highstrete took on the bridesmaid variation in ACT 3 with gorgeous jumps. Her ferociously long legs ate up the stage. Even with a small slip, she kept her cool and took all of her roles on ferociously. She also danced a principal dryad in ACT 2.

Principal Allyssa Bross was cast as Mercedes…. ehh nothing too exciting to report here or there. Did not dig her side ponytail…. I get they were trying to make her vampy… but it did not work. It just looked like some little girl hair style for ballet class. Her technique was flawless though, and she moved through the steps with ease. Definitely could up the sexy factor.

Dustin True was a great Gypsy solo man in the windmill scene. He brought flamboyancy and vigor to the role. Usually, this is the time I fall asleep in Don Q, but he was quite entertaining. Unfortunately principal dancer Zheng Hua Li was cast as the character role of Gamache so he didn’t dance the entire ballet…

Basilio was played by Kenta Shimizu who is now in his seventh season… He literally can do no wrong. All the bravura that is needed to do Basilio backed with strong technique and a calm approach to the role. But hands down the evening goes to Miss Julia Cinquemani… First I just want to say, normally I haven’t been a fan of her dancing, but it seems that Kitri/Dulcinea is the role she was born for and has created a new artistic maturity that is impossible to take your eyes off of. Her entrances in the first act were great, and the castanet variation was firey… The ACT 3 variation was clean and easy… But what was most impressive was her variation as Dulcinea was flawless…. It was so breathtaking. Every roll down was dream-like and suspended. It is everything that this variation should be. Her lines are still ridiculously high, but more refined now. Her attack is there, but now it is controlled. Her acting skills have improved and in ACT 3, her acting skills stole the show. It was funny and charming, sincere and realistic. Something that ballet should be.

Now time for the bad….. There were a lot of casting choices that I have no freaking clue why they were made…. Okay yes, I do. The artistic directors’ son, corps member Erik Thordal-Christensen was cast in Espada… It was sloppy, unrefined, immature and did I mention sloppy. The rest of the corps technique was flawless, turned out, stretched… and then there was him. This tall, elongated, uncontrolled blonde mess is running around the stage… I don’t know if because he is the son of the directors extra choreography was made around him but he danced probably just as much as Basilio…. And it wasn’t good. His costuming was better than Basilio’s as well…. But regardless… He was a mess. I’m sorry, but he has no business doing this role on the world premier night…Literally… they didn’t use Zheng Hua Li (a principal) or Alexander Castillo (soloist)…. seriously…. ballet faux pas…. don’t hire your kid…. #balletpolitics

Then in Amour/Cupid… 2nd-year corps member SarahAnne Perel was cast…. Which should not have happened… I get that Cupid always given to a short girl, but she is like tiny status. She looked like a little girl next to everyone else in the dream scene….. She was cute enough, but looked straight out of SAB….

The casting should have looked like:
Kitri: Julia Cinquemani
Basilio: Kenta Shimizu
Espada: Alexander Castillo (umm he’s Latin/Spanish boohoo Ummm hello….)
Mercedes: Allyssa Bross
Queen of the Dryads: Bianca Bulle
Amor/Cupid: Jasmine Perry
Bridesmaid: Kate Highstrete

Another issue with the ballet is that in the 3rd act tavern scene… they didn’t have the right size drops for the stage so you could see the hangers and the set behind the “tavern.” In the prologue where Don Q starts his dream… the set looked like some awful high school play. And the windmill looked like it came from a regional production of the Wizard of Oz.

Overall the performance was amazing, entertaining and shortened from the full version. Despite lacking live orchestra, the sound quality was great, and the dancing from the majority of the company was killer. The female corps de ballet at LA Ballet is by nature young and fresh (mostly out of SAB) but clean, controlled, turned out, and concise. The men in the corps de ballet have a lot of personality, but their body lines could be cleaned up. Which is probably hard to do this season as Los Angeles Ballet has hired all Balanchine dancers, but currently taking on the romantic classics this season. As Don Q is a technical showstopper, especially for Basilio, Mr. Shimizu put on a fantastic show. For this particular performance, hands down it goes to Julia Cinquemani for an almost near perfect rendition of Kitri. I just wish in the first act she wasn’t so refined and was more free spirited in her acting like in her ACT 3 version of the role. Act 1 could have been more playful in character, but she was absolutely a principal ballerina. Kate Highstrete, Bianca Bulle, and Allyssa Bross all were stunning and captivating in each of their roles. Chelsea Paige Johnston could definitely up her game as soloist in the company. She took on the Fandango role in Act 3 and as charming as it was… It came off as bad jazz/flamenco. Her partner Zachary Guthier was handsome and very regal in his approach. The acting roles of Don Quixote, Sancho Panza, Gamache all could have been cast as actual actors… Because they all needed to up their game as well…The ballet was overall amazing… Except the sour taste of the ADs’ son being cast in a principal/soloist role… It really did turn me off. You can catch Don Q over the next two weekends. Click here to buy tickets. And get ready for Romeo and Juliet. Hopefully, the casting will be better…. haha.

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