Last night's opening of Ballet West's Don Quixote was lit up by the surprise debut of a 19 year-old lead who shows extraordinary promise, judging by the fierce standing ovation she received at the show's end.---
Rex Tilton had been slated to dance Basilio, a penniless barber, but suffered an injury. So BW switched its Friday-night lead dancers for those scheduled to play the two leads Saturday night. Principal artist Christopher Ruud danced a brisk, amused Basilio, and Beckanne Sisk, rising from the ranks of the artists, stepped onto the stage for her lead debut.
Sisk hails from Longview, Texas, and was apparently discovered by BW's artistic director Adam Sklute a few years ago. She joined Ballet West II in 2010, was bumped up last year to Ballet West and last night won over the never-easy-to-seduce hearts of Salt Lake City's ballet aficionados with her natural technique, pluck, bright smile and youthful passion.
Sisk was remarkable, both for her poise and her fresh-faced energy, in the dual roles of Kitri and the embodiment of doddering Don Quixote's perfect woman, Dulcinea. She provided the perfect center to a joyful, bubbling and, at times, riotously playful production of Don Q, choreographed by Anna-Marie Holmes. Kathy Adams did a fun piece on Holmes that explored her long history with Russian ballet in The Salt Lake Tribune last week that you can find here.
Along with the richly colored costumes and the vibrant Spanish-themed music by Ludwig Minkus under conductor Terence Kern, Ballet West's premiere of Don Quixote superbly captured the energy and the joy of one of the great classics -- no more so than in the opening scene of the third act when the matadors, led by Tom Mattingly's winningly sharp Espada the Toreador, execute a stark, flamenco-esque dance of stamping heels and claps that brought the house down.
But the night belonged to Sisk, even with a stumble close to the end. She projected an astonishing confidence and flair that had Ballet West's fans nattering enthusiastically in the intermissions about Sklute's discovery and what a find she is.
Ballet West has scheduled different dancers for the two lead roles through out the week. But if you've wanted to try a ballet and wondered where to start, the sheer pleasure of this Don Quixote, with its grace, speed and artistry, would make it a perfectly accessible introduction to the balletic arts.