By John Grossi
Each December tens of thousands of residents from all over Southern California flock to the Long Beach Terrace Theater to watch Long Beach Ballet’s Nutcracker… a professional, full-scale production of the holiday classic, done to the nines with full orchestra, pyrotechnics, and a live horse.
But how many are missing out on Long Beach Ballet’s less well-known spring performance at the Long Beach Carpenter Center each June? This year’s production of Don Quixote offers locals the opportunity to discover a hidden gem right here on the campus of CSULB. Same company, same choreographer, even the same horse! However, without the orchestra and minus some of the other bells and whistles, priced at about half what it costs to attend the annual Nutcracker.
Logistics aside, it’s an awe-inspiring performance each year for ballet-lovers and other live entertainment enthusiasts. No matter the particular show, audience members are consistently mesmerized by the high standards for dance, story-telling, and emotion demanded by Long Beach Ballet’s director and commodore of choreography, David Wilcox.
This June will be the Long Beach Ballet’s second time putting on Don Quixote, having first tackled the famous ballet six years ago. While many of its 400 students will participate in Don Quixote, just as they do in the Nutcracker, this is by no means a recital. Wilcox is famous and well respected in the ballet world for the exacting level of precision and excellence he demands from both students and lead performers. About 260 local students ages 4-18 dance in this comedy, led by professional dancers in the major roles.
What many audience members will delight in – enhancing their enjoyment of the dancing - is the show’s humor. “The audience laughs a lot during this production because it’s so classically funny.” The premise of Don Quixote is following the adventures of an old man, once a dashing young knight, as he sets off on a journey with his newly found sidekick, Sancho Panza. However, the aging Quixote is sort of a Mr. Magoo type character… constantly and accidentally affecting the plot without even realizing it!
The dramatic irony leads to lots of laughs and funny little altercations within the ballet. Wilcox has even rewritten and choreographed parts of the dance to strengthen the plot and add in more humor so the audience can follow the story along in between the dances.
“I’m big on telling the story,” says Wilcox. “I hate to see a ballet where you [the audience] has no idea what’s going on!”
The Long Beach Ballet students and professionals have been working on Don Quixote since September of 2021 and are excited to share it with the Long Beach community! Wilcox and his company are not only a local treasure but also world famous. Prior to the pandemic, the company would spend a month each year touring China and sometimes other countries, performing Wilcox’s original ballets for sellout global audiences.
While they have not been able to take their yearly summer trips since 2020, last year’s Nutcracker was a major success and sold out the Long Beach Terrace Theatre multiple nights in December!
Wilcox and his company are excited to showcase their lighter side this June and invite the community to come partake in the romantic and madcap adventures of history’s favorite knight.
Performances are Saturday, June 4 at 2pm and Sunday, June 5 at 2pm. Purchase tickets at www.longbeachballet.com.