Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre rides out the 44th season with 'Don Quixote'

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Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre opened the second half of its 44th season with the classic tale of love and loss "Swan Lake."

But dancers will end the season this weekend on a high note with some hilarity in the fun-loving "Don Quixote" with the PBT orchestra at the Benedum Center, Downtown.

'Don Quixote' with PB orchestra

Where: Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre at Benedum Center, Downtown.

When: 8 p.m. Friday; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday.

Tickets: Start at $25.75; or 412-456-6666.

"It's nothing but lots of fun, great dancing and a challenge for everybody," says artistic director Terrence Orr. "It has great big steps, big jumps, big turns and lots of incredible technique. That makes this ballet very special."

"Don Quixote" premiered in 1869 at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow. Choreographed by Marius Petipa, often regarded as the "father of classical ballet," the ballet is inspired by a 17th-century Spanish novel and follows Don Quixote and Sancho Panza as they seek out the "ideal woman." They meet Kitri, but she falls for Basilio and runs away with him to avoid an arranged marriage to the nobleman Gamache. Then challenges and comedy ensue in the pursuit of true love. The ballet was later restaged by Alexander Gorsky, which has evolved into the Petipa/Gorsky adaptation that still is performed today. It will be danced to the Ludwig Minkus score.

"Don Quixote" was one of the first ballets Mr. Orr presented when he came to Pittsburgh, and it was last staged in October 2007. It will have a fresh look this time thanks to different scenery, Mr. Orr says, that's being adapted for the production. Three casts of couples also will give each performance a unique flavor. On Friday and Sunday, the roles of Kitri and Basilio will be danced by principal Alexandra Kochis and corps de ballet member Alejandro Diaz, respectively. Corps member Gabrielle Thurlow and soloist Luca Sbrizzi will dance the parts for the Saturday matinee, while soloists Amanda Cochrane and Yoshiaki Nakano will be featured Saturday night.

These pairings will offer a preview of some of the dancers and partnering PBT followers might see more of next season as several of these artists have been promoted for 2014-15. Mr. Diaz and Ms. Thurlow will join the soloists, and Ms. Cochrane and Mr. Nakano will become principals. The latter have been paired more frequently in recent performances, including as leads in the February production of "Swan Lake" and the Sugar Plum pas de deux in "The Nutcracker." They've also both been spotlighted in Dance Magazine's annual "25 to Watch" list.

"We've been growing and improving together this year, and I really look forward to working more with him next year," Ms. Cochrane says. "I think we make a pretty good pair."

"Don Quixote" also will mark for some dancers their final show at the Benedum Center with PBT. Soloist Eva Trapp and corps member Nicholas Coppula are departing the company to possibly pursue opportunities with Twyla Tharp in New York City. Principal Christine Schwaner, who was with PBT for eight years, and 16-year PBT dancer Stephen Hadala of the corps are retiring after this season.

"I'm going to miss the people who are leaving very much," Mr. Orr says. "I think the promotions are good and timely."

But despite the sadness of these farewells, this weekend will be a light-hearted good time at the theater for audiences, he says.

"I hope that we put some love in people's lives ... and fun-loving good fun."

Sara Bauknecht: or on Twitter @SaraB_PG.

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