Sergio Neglia knows the classics. He grew up around them in Argentina, where his father, Jose Neglia, was one of the country's premier ballet dancers in the 1950s and 1960s. As such, when it came to mounting his own ballet version of Miguel Cervantes' "Don Quixote" last season, Neglia was able to bring to the ballet a wealth of knowledge along with an underlying desire to make his ballet not only truer to Cervantes' classic tale, but also true to his idea of what makes classic ballet.
After its successful debut last season in UB's Center for the Arts, Neglia Ballet Artists' 90-minute, two-act ballet returns to UB this Saturday with only a few modifications and some new cast members. Artistic director and company principal dancer, Neglia has combined in his production, bringing new choreography along with a restaging of Marius Petipa's 1869 version.
"My ballet focuses more on the character of Don Quixote than other versions," Neglia said. In his version, Don Quixote is not just chasing windmills or relegated to the background, but is at the center of the ballet's attention.
"From reading the book, I see Don Quixote as more of a dreamer," he said. "I haven't really seen that aspect of the character reflected in other ballet productions. I wanted to bring that part of Don Quixote out in mine."
In doing so, Neglia created an entire dream sequence in the ballet's second act where Don Quixote dreams of maidens and his beloved Dulcinea. Neglia, remembering being smitten by a production of the ballet by Russia's Bolshoi Ballet when he was a child, says he also wanted his production to appeal to a broader audience.
"I always thought the ballet should be more kid-oriented," Neglia said.
Neglia Ballet's production homes in on the eccentric Don Quixote's encounter with a band of gypsies and the love story between two young gypsies, the charismatic barber Basilio, danced by Neglia, and the innkeeper Lorenzo's (Patrick Rocheleau) mischievous daughter Kitri, danced by Neglia Ballet principal Sherri Campagni.
Local actor/singer Jason Bravo will portray the "Man of La Mancha," Don Quixote, with David Butler reprising his role as sidekick Sancho Panza. Former Neglia Ballet standout Gabrielle Thurlow returns from the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School to dance the role of Cupid, while veteran local dancers Beth Elkins and Keri Ring join the cast as a pair of brawling gypsy girls. Rounding out the ballet's main characters are Angel Diaz as the flamboyant Gamache and area puppeteer Michele Costa as Don Quixote's fiery imagined dragon.
Set to a lively score by composer Leon Minkus, Neglia Ballet's "Don Quixote" is full of tempestuous Spanish flavor and attitude. It features one of ballet's most beloved grand pas de deuxs, which Neglia kept from Petipa's original, along with a striking set design by Butler, including a 20-foot windmill, colorful costumes and Brian Cavanagh's atmospheric lighting design. With these elements in place, Neglia Ballet's production this weekend has the potential to surpass the original.
WHAT: "Don Quixote," presented by Neglia Ballet Artists
WHEN: 7 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: UB Center for the Arts, North Campus
TICKETS: $12 to $22 (box office, Ticketmaster)
INFO: 652-ARTS or www.negliaballet.org
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