Alina Cojocaru and Polina Semionova Guest Star in ABT’s DON QUIXOTE

Over the weekend, two European star ballerinas – Alina Cojocaru from the Royal Ballet in London, and Polina Semionova from the Berlin State Opera Ballet – guest starred in American Ballet Theater’s Don Quixote as Kitri.  Cojocaru danced with Jose Carreno, and Semionova with David Hallberg. I saw both performances. (Photos above: Cojocaru in DQ in top photo, and Semionova with Vladimir Malakhov in bottom photo. I’m hoping to get some photos of the actual performances over the weekend, and will post them when I do.)

Overall, I thought both are beautiful dancers, have an innate sweetness that shines through, are absolute balance queens who can hold balances on one leg on pointe for many many seconds unassisted, and can dance the role nearly perfectly. But I thought that both of them lacked fire; they both played it too safe. Maybe it’s just that Natalia Osipova has ruined me and I just can’t see anyone else in this role now.

One thing I loved about the Cojocaru / Carreno performance were that the two seemed to have a real rapport, a genuine affection for each other. Did they ever dance together at the Royal, does anyone know? Or was Jose there too early for her? Cojocaru never threw herself into his arms with the wild abandon that Osipova did last year, and I missed that. But I don’t think Jose did 🙂 Seriously, he didn’t seem to appreciate Osipova’s theatrics that much. Cojocaru seemed to tone it down and they worked very well together. Also, as I complained about on Twitter ad nauseam, during those insane one-handed overhead lifts, Jose did not go on releve and hold one leg up in arabesque the way Ivan Vasiliev did with Osipova in the Bolshoi’s live-streamed performance. It’s okay; I still love Jose 🙂 But seriously, Vasiliev and Osipova have ruined me! Cojocaru has absolutely gorgeous developpes. She can lift her leg up so high – really stunning. And I mentioned the balances earlier. She held those for so long; crowd went wild. And sweetest thing: Jose kept demanding she return for an encore bow after each of her solos. Made me really love Jose.

Cojocaru was a little shaky during the first act, and she had a little stumble. But it wasn’t memorable. Far more memorable was her strong performance in the third act, her best. That’s when she did the crazy balances.

In the third act fan variation, Cojocaru did a completely different series of steps than I’d ever seen before, which makes me think there are a bazillion ways to do that variation. Or at least three – the American, the Russian, and the British. The Ballet Bag ladies sent me a You Tube link via twitter, of Cojocaru dancing with Johan Kobborg. Around the 7 minute point is where she does this different variation.

Jose is such a great Basilio. He’s a natural flirt, a natural macho Latin guy, and a natural actor who can be a macho and a flirt and still be totally endearing. And it really kind of made me melt when he kept insisting she take more bows.

I really enjoyed Sarah Lane and Isabella Boylston as “the flower girls.” They often weren’t in sync because Boylston danced with more expressiveness, arching her back, taking her time and drawing out the turns, playing with the musicality. Lane was more sharp and precise, hitting poses right on the beat. But I could have cared less that they weren’t perfectly in sync. I loved that each had her own personality, as people do in real life.

I missed Sascha Radetsky as Espada the matador. I’ve never seen him in that role and I think he’d make a good one. He was replaced by Gennadi Saveliev. He was replaced on opening night too, which worries me that he’s injured.

I thought Polina Semionova was really beautiful, and, where Cojocaru had a few wobbles, Semionova had none. She was very very near perfect. Like Cojocaru, the third act was the one that most brought her to life. She kind of veered all over stage on her third act series of fouettes but she threw several multiple pirouettes in, and her balances were even more stunning than Cojocaru’s, as, during her final balance, she took her leg out of arabesque and straightened it out in front of her, without ever holding Hallberg’s hand to steady herself. Audience went absolutely crazy with applause. They really loved her, and called her and David out for several curtain calls.

In the third act, she did “the American” fan variation. She’s Russian and dances in Berlin, so I really think each ballerina just chooses whichever version looks better on her body and feels most comfortable to her. I thought the little hopping “horse steps” on pointe were really sweet on her.

She and David seemed to like each other as well. The partnering was a little off at points, though, and he almost dropped her in a fish dive. She played it very safe with the second act swan dives into his arms as well, and he didn’t try any Vasilievs on the one-handed lift.

David is a beautiful dancer on his own though, and, as a critic said to me during intermission, it’s sometimes hard to focus on anyone else when he’s onstage. His movements were absolutely perfect, both the more balletic and those kind of side to side matador-looking movements. His jetes are beautiful – he’s just the most beautiful male dancer and you can completely lose yourself in the story of the ballet just watching him.

Acting-wise, I think David is wonderful in the romantic scenes. He’s definitely a romantic. But the rest of the time I think he should just be himself, make Basilio his own, and not try to be so cocky and macho. In him, I find it comes across as anger, an an intimation of violence even, like he’s really going to go off and whack someone. He’s not a natural cocky flirty Latin shit like Jose and Marcelo Gomes 🙂 And so it loses its charm with him. My thoughts anyway.

It probably won’t come to a surprise to anyone who’s read my blog for some time that Veronika Part (here as Mercedes, the “street dancer”) stood out to me. In the first two acts, I found her even more captivating than Semionova. One thing I love about her is her attempt to make the styling as authentic as possible. Part really looked like a Spanish dancer to me. And in the second act’s dream scene, I found her jetes across the stage really breathtaking – just as much as Semionova’s.

Sarah Lane danced the part of Amour in the white scene. I always want to call that character Cupid. Anyway, before the performance began, I overheard one teenage girl behind me say to another, “Sarah Lane! She was the one in Black Swan!”

All in all, really lovely performances, but I do think Cojocaru makes a better Sleeping Beauty and Giselle than Kitri. She’ll be dancing Giselle this Saturday night. She’ll also be dancing Don Quixote again with Jose tomorrow night (Monday, the 23rd). I’m excited to see Semionova in Swan Lake later in the season.


  1. Saw Don Q tonight. Agree with you about Cojocaru and Carreno–great chemistry. She’s good in this role, but much, much better in Sleeping Beauty. I think Osipova pretty much rules as Kitri right now.

    Random thoughts.

    The horns in the orchestra were awful.

    I had Yuriko Kajiya as my “Amour.” She has lost a lot of weight. I think it has affected her turns. She needs to eat .

    Salviev replaced Radetsky for my performance too. It was a shame. Nothing against Salviev, but he has never done anything for me as a dancer.

    My Mercedes and Queen of the Dryads was Maria Ricetto. Pretty dancer but for some reason she just doesn’t project. I don’t get it.

    Sarah Lane–she projects! Someone so small can just absolutely reach the back of the theater. Amazing. I like Isabella Boylston–but she projects much less. Also,–was it someone’s idea of a Black Swan Gossip redux to pair these two together?

    Looking forward to the premieres and to the Giselles at the end of the week.

    Also, Hee Seo is back on the roster for the premieres. Her injury must have healed.

    Interesting that MacAuley isn’t weighing in at all about ABT–I think he’s enjoyed NYCB more this spring.

  2. Hi,

    just as a random note, I wouldn´t call Alina´s variation spanish, but this is the set that I´ve seen most girls doing around here. I was taught that variation by a teacher from the danish school, but I dont think Bournonville had anything to do with it either :).

  3. As you noted, Alina & Jose were a great pair. It was a privilege seeing Jose in one of his last roles with a top-notch partner.

    I was impressed by the easy, natural, musical quality of Isabella’s dancing. My impression is partly colored by her tremendous performance last evening in the new Wheeldon work.

  4. To answer your question, Cojocaru and Carreno never danced together at the Royal. Carreno left the Royal in 1995, and Alina didn’t join until 1999 (becoming a principal in 2001).

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