American Ballet Theatre's third performance of "Don Quixote" at the Kennedy Center last night was roundly satisfying at the level of the principal figures -- Martine van Hamel as Kitri, and young (20) Patrick Bissell making his first Washington appearance as Basil. Underneath it was patchy -- some strikingly apt and some not so apt performances, and an overall feeling of unevenness.
The tempestuous flirt Kitri is perhaps not ideal source material for van Hamel's talents, but since she is a ballerina who seems incapable of doing anything she attempts less than splendidly, all the contrivances of her portrayal are invisible. She uses her size and fullness of movement to give Kitri temper and zest, her musicality and technical strength make the bravura passages a thrill to watch.
Bissell, with his height and broad frame and frisky presence, is a wonderful physical match for van Hamel, and last night the partnership meshed beautifully in most respects. Bissell has the makings of a true virtuoso. His form is improving rapidly, but the edges are still rough and sometimes he dares more than he can safely manage. It's the daring you remember, though, and the promise.
Precisely because the dramatic scaffolding of the comedy is so thin, the impact of Baryshnikov's "Don Quixote" rests very largely on pointed characterizations, especially in the supporting roles. Matters were mixed in this respect last night. Alexander Minz as Don Quixote and Frank Smith as Lorenzo were their impeccably drawn selves in these accustomed, excellent impersonations. Warren Conover's Sancho was amusing and lucidly mimed, but rather too toy-like for the part. Marcos Paredes caught the puffery of Gamache, but not the touchy eccentricity which gives the role its special mirth.
No one, to my mind, has yet delivered enough Latin snap and smolder as Espada, the matador, but Richard Schafer seemed less suited to these qualities than his predecessors. Cynthia Harvey and Elaine Kudo made sprightly, charming Flower Girls. Nanette Glushak's street dancer was quite persuasive despite some technical faltering, and Kristine Elliott lacked only a mite more crispness to give Amour a full measure of enchantment.
Antony Dowell, who couldn't finish his performance as Basil Wednesday night due to a severe muscle cramp, is reported well today and is expected to dance as Count Albrecht in tonight's "Giselle."