Jordan Levin

Miami City Ballet’s ‘Don Quixote’ is bright but not brilliant entertainment

Miami City Ballet is ending its season with a solidly entertaining, if sometimes uneven, production of Don Quixote — the same ballet the troupe danced in its first performance at the Adrienne Arsht Center in fall 2006.

Friday’s opening show of this Spanish-flavored crowd pleaser at the Broward Center in Fort Lauderdale again featured Mary Carmen Catoya and Renato Penteado in the lead roles of Kitri and Basilio, the young lovers whose antics and spectacular variations are at the heart of Don Quixote. The company repeats the program Friday through Sunday at the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach and April 11-13 at the Arsht Center.

Catoya, who has been on maternity leave this season, is back with astonishing verve for a woman who gave birth just seven months ago. Except for a few tense wobbles, Catoya was mostly her old confident self in Kitri’s many pyrotechnical variations: sharply outlining purely classical arabesques and coy Spanish twists of her back; reaching into long, proud balances; whipping off spectacular sequences of fouettes and pirouettes; prancing effortlessly on pointe. Catoya has often looked uncomfortably strained in recent performances, and so it was a pleasure to see her again as an adroit comedienne, an impulsive, sparkling and defiant girl.

Penteado also suits as Basilio, making up in punchy, intensely focused power what he lacks in range of movement; his big jumps and leaps, especially in the finale, were thrilling. He was also an adept comic, making Basilio an impish but open-hearted flirt.

The wisp of a plot is centered around Kitri and Basilio’s efforts to unite, even as her father (Didier Bramaz) tries to marry her off to the rich, foppish Gamache (a fabulously mincing Jeremy Cox). Don Quixote, understatedly played by Carlos Guerra, is mostly a comic foil, as well as an excuse for an elaborate classical dream sequence in the second act. The young Andrei Chagas made a terrific debut as the Don’s bumbling sidekick Sancho Panza, showing an unexpected gift for vivid physical comedy.

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Jennifer Kronenberg struck a delicious balance between sultry and delicate as street dancer Mercedes; her partner Reyneris Reyes’ imperious machismo as the lunging, cape-swirling matador Espada was marred by tense stiffness.

The lavish Santo Loquasto set and costumes, rented from American Ballet Theater, make this a pleasurably and atypically lush production for MCB. All those layers of ruffles and bright colored satin make the many swirling crowd scenes a visual pleasure.

Where this Don Quixote falls short is in its consistency of style and attention to detail, which can make the difference between thrilling and simply satisfactory entertainment. In group sections the dancers could be out of sync, not moving in unison or shaping their steps in the same way, so that a crucial cohesion of style and impulse was sometimes missing.

A group of toreadors couldn’t always snap their capes fully open, and the male gypsies in the second act swaggered a bit too much like Marlon Brando wannabes. (Though Renan Cerdeiro and Patricia Delgado were satisfyingly melodramatic as their leaders). Enough of these inconsistencies and you lose the sense of unified energy and vision that make a big ballet like Don Quixote more than a series of exciting set pieces.

In the dream sequence, Sara Esty was beautifully piquant and quick as Amour, but she also seemed to rush through the delicately detailed gestures and musical accents that could have given her solos much more character. Christie Sciturro was elegant but tense as the Queen of the Dryads. And although Catoya did the spectacular sequence of hops on one pointe and long balances of the dream sequence well, this was the only place where she looked uncomfortably strained, marring what should have been a serene fantasy.

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