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The National Ballet of Cuba dazzles with full-length Don Quixote

Viegsay Valdes of the National Ballet of Cuba flies through the air in perfect form. photo Jacque Moalti.

The National Ballet of Cuba, founded by Prima Ballerina Assoluta Alicia Alonso in 1948, is one of the world’s premiere classical ballet companies. They're coming to Vancouver February 16-18 at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre.

Performing Don Quixote, known for its splendidly virtuoustic Grand Pas de Deux performed at competitions world -wide because of its degree of difficulty and bravado, the full length ballet is not often done.

Promoter Brent Belsher, continuing  solo after  David Y.H. Lui, Vancouver’s long-time impresario, who was working on this project when he passed away last September, discussed the magnitude of bringing these 70 people-50 dancers-to perform for Vancouver audiences.

“It’s the first international ballet company to come to Vancouver in a very long time," he said. "The last time that a full length classical ballet was performed in Vancouver, Swan Lake,  was in 2005 by the National Ballet of Canada.”

Based on Don Quixote de la Mancha by Miguel de Cervantes , there is a straight play, which the Vancouver Arts Club has just finished touring, and the musical Man of La Mancha  telling the story of Don Quixote de la Mancha, his beloved Dulcinea, and his hapless servant Sancho Panza.

The ballet, with choreography by  Marius Petipa to the music of Ludwig Minkus, was first presented by the Ballet of the Imperial Bolshoi Theatre of Moscow, Russia in 1869. Alicia Alonso’s version pays homage to Petipa’s choreography while showing off the technical prowess of her dancers refined by stringent Russian technique.

Alonso, a fascinating character who had started her training in Cuba and then moved to and performed in New York City, was famous for her portrayals of Giselle and Carmen both with the American Ballet Theatre and abroad. At the age of 19, she was afflicted with an eye defect rendering her partially blind and her partners always had to be in the exact place she expected them to be while using lights in different parts of the stage to guide them. Still alive at 91, Belsher shared that, there were tickets put aside for her, but she has had a medical issue recently that may prevent her from coming. He said they remain "hopeful" that she will be there. 

Honouring Lui, who was vital to dance in Vancouver and an Order of Canada recipient, Belsher looks forward to full houses during the performance.

“The technique is what the National Ballet of Cuba is known for. The precision in their jumps and leaps, their sense of showmanship and it’s one of the only large ballet companies that still tours.”

Combine that with the spectacle of gorgeous costumes and sets and live accompaniment by the  Vancouver Opera Orchestra, and dance aficionados, neophyte and  experienced, will be delighted.

Tickets for Don Quixote range from $47 to $97 (plus taxes and service charges) and are available at Ticketmaster,, 1-855-985-ARTS(2787) or for details. 


NOTE: These performances are not part of any other dance or ballet series being presented in Vancouver this season. Tickets for Don Quixote must be purchased separately.

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