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  • Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette Caitlyn Quinn, playing Kitri, and Ernesto LeaPlace, playing Basillio, perform the grand pas de deux during their performance in Fort Wayne Ballet's production of Don Quixote, which opens Friday.

  • Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette Caitlyn Quinn, playing Kitri, and Ernesto LeaPlace, playing Basillio, perform the grand pas de deux during their performance in Fort Wayne Ballet's production of Don Quixote, which opens Friday.

  • Caitlin Quinn and Ernesto Lea Place rehearse for Fort Wayne Ballet’s production of “Don Quixote.”

  • Photos by Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette During rehearsal for the Fort Wayne Ballet’s production of “Don Quixote,” David Ingram, left, playing Gamache, tosses a dowry to Phillip Colglazier, right, playing Lorenzo, while Gregory Manifold, playing Don Quixote, looks on. The show begins tonight, with two more shows Saturday.

  • Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette In the Fort Wayne Ballet's production of Don Quixote, Gavin Mark McNally, front, plays Espada, with the Torreadors behind him, from left to right, Talbot Rue, Jack Miller, Miles Nicholson, Carlos Jones, Sam Huberty, Isaac Hollis, and Kennon Nicholson. The production opens Friday.

  • Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette Talbot Rue, playing the Gypsy King, and Makayla Arnold, playing the Gypsy Queen, dance and frolic in their scene around a campfire in the Fort Wayne Ballet's production of Don Quixote, which opens Friday.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015 12:52 pm

Love quest told through dance

Keiara Carr The Journal Gazette

Fort Wayne Ballet has never performed “Don Quixote” before, and with each passing rehearsal, the backdrop is layered by dancers, the dancers are layered by actors and the stage is layered by live musicians.

Admittedly, the collaboration has left executive director Karen Gibbons-Brown a bit anxious.

“But I’m anxious in a positive way. I’m anxious about pulling this together because we do have so many elements coming together on stage all at once,” she says. “But we have great volunteers and a great set designer and lighting designer.

“It’s a fun ballet, and I had forgotten that because we haven’t had the opportunity to do something like this in my tenure here,” she adds.

Opening today, the ballet “Don Quixote” is based on excerpts from the classic Spanish 1605 novel by Miguel de Cervantes with the Fort Wayne Philharmonic accompanying all of the weekend’s performances. There will also be a “Fiesta de la Vida” pre-show reception at 6:30 p.m. today and a “Explorer’s Retreat Party” following the matinée performance Saturday, where the audience will be able to meet the dancers and make a special craft.

Gibbons-Brown says there is a noticeable difference for a dancer when he or she can feel the vibrations of live music, which is an advantage for this season’s final performance at Arts United Center.

The company still has two performances left in May for the ArtsLab and Family series.

“It’s joyous, it’s happy. There’s not one moment where you go ‘Oh my gosh, this is just such a downer,’ ” Gibbons-Brown says. “You don’t have to ask the dancers, ‘Could you please smile here?’ You don’t have to ask them to emote. It’s all built into the movement.”

Don Quixote, an old knight portrayed by actor Gregory Manifold, is on a quest to save the fictional fair lady he has visions of in his dreams, when he encounters young lovers Kitri and Basilio. With Kitri’s father determined to marry his daughter to the wealthy Gamache, a love triangle forms with Don Quixote eventually deciding to trick Kitri’s father into giving the couple his blessing.

The cast includes Civic Theatre executive director Phillip Colglazier as Kitri’s father, Lorenzo, and Fort Wayne Ballet artistic associate David Ingram as Gamache.

For Manifold, who says that he hasn’t been as active in the theater over the past 10 to 20 years, being back onstage is one thing, whereas being an actor without dialogue is another.

“I’m used to being an actor who has words,” he says, laughing. “All of the sudden I’m up on this stage with no words to speak, and it’s a very different feeling.

“David Ingram and Karen, as well as the whole company, they have been wonderful to me and the others who are not ballet dancers. They have really taken the time to talk about the scenes and talk about the emotions that need to be expressed and the story that needs to be shown through movement.”

Gibbons-Brown says the show’s relatable characters make it palatable for any age.

“It’s really one of those very fun ballets that is family-friendly and the story is cute and the characters are very personable,” Gibbons-Brown says.

“In our productions, we always have some sense of drama to help tell the story, but this is one of those few ballets, where the storyline is not always carried by the dancers, and that’s been a great process. The actors have been so inspirational to the dancers, and the dancers have been really helpful (in regards to saying), ‘I need you to please stand here because I’m going to do this giant jeté over to this side,’ and just very kind.”

Despite the lack of words, Manifold believes the movement and music seem to fill in the gaps.

“The way they have put it together with the wonderful music the Philharmonic is going to provide, I think the audience will see Don Quixote searching after this love that he can’t ever find,” he says. “I think the audience is going to see that he is not going to find his true love at this moment, but he has seen true love unfolding on stage.”

Gibbons-Brown says “Don Quixote” is just one effort to present ballets that may not be as recognizable to viewers.

She says there’s another one possibly in the works for next season that could bring Fort Wayne Ballet and the Philharmonic together again for a collaboration outside of the annual “Nutcracker” performance, but that’s something for both organizations to discuss in detail once they get through “Don Quixote.”

“Dance companies don’t often have this luxury (of an orchestra), and it is truly a luxury,” Gibbons-Brown says. “I just hope people don’t miss it.”

kcarr@jg.net