“After reading Cervantes’ Don Quixote, all 940 pages, it became clear to me that even trying to tell a small part of the story in theatrical terms, and specifically as a dance drama, was practically impossible. The novel is so rich in incidence, character, description and drama, that a week of full-length ballets would not be sufficient.
Balanchine always said the heart of every ballet is a pas de deux, and indeed ballet is often at its best when describing the relationship between a man and woman in a dance for two. Cervantes has Don Quixote encountering many characters whose stories and emotional entanglements are indicative of the myriad kinds of relationships between men and women. I have chosen just a few of these to show in dance terms.
I have also tried to depict a few of Don Quixote’s adventures and, because of the complexity of the narrative of this great (and what many consider the first) novel, I incorporated Don Quixote’s great friend, the priest Pedro Perez, as narrator to move the action forward.
The received and perceived understanding of Don Quixote and the adjective “quixotic” seems to me, and those I’ve spoken with, someone with poetic or artistic soul whose ideals - although battered by reality - he or she never loses. In fact the phrase “tilting at windmills” is usually used in a positive context as someone willing to fight on at all odds. The dictionary definition of “quixotic” is “idealistic without regard to practicality.”
Don Quixote’s obsessively romantic nature, enhanced by his reading of too many novels of chivalry, causes him throughout the novel to make one error in judgment after another, causing harm not only to himself but to those he thinks need his help as well. This is also true of many of the characters he meets along his journey. The novel is rich in human foibles and is a great interaction among rich and poor; high and low; men and women; and parents and children of 17th century Spain. But as with all great works of art, it is unfortunately just as relevant to today’s world.
I am grateful to the Nasher Museum for giving me the opportunity to create a ballet to this masterpiece and for giving me the excuse to actually read the book.” —Robert Weiss