'Don Quixote' at the Los Angeles Ballet

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Photo by Reed Hutchinson

While Los Angeles has become a world-class cultural capital with top-notch museums, galleries, opera, symphony orchestra and theaters, it has lagged in one important area - ballet. Despite herculean efforts over the years, ballet companies have struggled and ultimately failed to gain a foothold in Southern California. But all that has changed with the emergence over the past decade of the Los Angeles Ballet company, under the leadership of Artistic Directors Thordal Christensen and Colleen Neary, and Executive Director Julie Whittaker.

Operating on a shoestring budget and performing without a permanent home, LA Ballet has managed through dedication and careful planning to establish itself as a vibrant, energetic and professional company on the national ballet scene. By carefully building a talented company over the past ten years, and relying on a core of supporters, LAB has emerged as a bright light of the performing arts in Los Angeles.

Its most recent production of Don Quixote, originally choreographed by Marius Pepita for the Bolshoi in 1869 and repurposed by Alexander Gorsky in 1900, was performed for sold-out audiences in various venues around Southern California. As with its other ballet productions, Don Quixote showcased the talented ensemble company at its best, along with several promising soloists who highlighted this engaging ballet.

Julia Cinquemani, playing the role of Kitri, is dazzling and charismatic, and her partner Kenta Shimizu is strong and solid in the role of Basilio. Other standout performances included Allyssa Bross, Bianca Bulle, Kate Highstrete and Erik Thordal-Christensen. Directors Neary and Christensen choreograph the piece with precision and grace, lifting both soloists and the corps to a high level of achievement.

While Los Angeles Ballet still has work to do in attracting both money and talent to its company, it has wisely stuck to the basics of building a company from the ground up, carefully grooming its performers and engaging an audience for the future. It is already well on its way to fulfilling the mission of creating a world-class ballet company.