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Dance Appreciation: Introduction To Don Quixote

A Beginner’s Guide to Don Quixote

Credit: Singapore Ballet

Choreographer: Marius Petipa

Musical Score: Ludwig Minkus

Main Characters in Don Quixote

  • Basilio: Lover of Kitri

  • Don Quixote: The love of Don Quixote

  • Gamache: Betrothed to Kitri

  • Kitri: Daughter of Lorenzo, Lover of Basilio

  • Lorenzo: An innkeeper, Father to itri

  • Sancho Panza: Squire to Do Quixote


Marius Petipa’s Don Quixote was originally produced for the Bolshoi Theatre of Moscow in four acts and eight scenes and marked the beginning of the collaboration between Petipa and Ludwig Minkus. The Don Quixote premiered in late December 1869 to rousing success and then re-staged an even more elaborate version again in St. Petersburg in 1871.

Quick Facts

  1. The ballet Don Quixote is based on segments of the classic novel, The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha, by Miguel de Cervantes Saavreda.

  2. Even though Petipa is credited with the original production, the first version of the ballet being recorded was in 1740 by dancer and choreographer Franz Hilverding in Vienna, Austria.

  3. The Grand Pas de Deux of Kitri and Basilio is often performed as a standalone excerpt of the ballet. It features technically demanding variations and remarkable partnering.


Based on the novel Don Quixote de la Mancha by Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote tells the story of the old hidalgo, who reads many chivalric romance novels. One day, with Sancho Panza as his squire, Don Quixote sets out on an adventure as a medieval knight to bring justice to the world and honour to Dulcinea, the lady of his dreams.


Festivities and dancing were taking place at a square in Barcelona when Kitri professes her love for Basilio. When Kitri’s father, Lorenzo spotted the lover in the crowd, he tried to separate them, insisting Kitri to marry the wealthy nobleman Gamache.

Don Quixote and Sancho Panza’s arrival in the square causes a commotion and Don Quixote mistakes Kitri for Dulcinea. At the height of merriment, Kitri and Basilio, aided by their friends, Espada and Mercedes, sneak off followed by Don Quixote and Sancho Panza.

Wona Park in Tomasson/Possokhov’s Don Quixote | Credit: Erik Tomasson


Fleeing from Lorenzo and Gamache, the couple, Kitri and Basilio, wander into a gypsy camp. Don Quixote and Sancho Panza also appear on the scene, and in their honor the gypsies put on a puppet show. During the performance, Don Quixote mistakes the puppet heroine for Dulcinea. With sword in hand, he rushes to defend her, destroying the puppet stage. He then charged against the windmills which he thought was a threatening giant and strike against it. Don Quixote falls to the ground and remains unconscious.

San Francisco Ballet in Tomasson/Possokhov’s Don Quixote | Credit: Chris Hardy

After being knocked out unconscious from attacking the windmills, Don Quixote dreams he is in the enchanted garden of his beloved Dulcinea. At sunrise Lorenzo and Gamache meet up with Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. Sympathetic to the plight of the young lovers, Don Quixote attempts to lead them astray.

St Petersburg, Mariinsky Theatre

Don Quixote, Sancho Panza, Gamache, and Lorenzo finally catch up with Kitri and Basilio in a tavern. Once again Lorenzo insists Kitri to accept Gamache’s proposal. Finally, discovered, Kitri is forced by Lorenzo to accept the attention of Gamcehe. The distraught Basilio pretends to commit suicide. Kitri begs Don Quixote to persuade Lorenzo let her marry Basilio. When Don Quixote threatens Lorenzo with his sword, Lorenzo he gives his consent and Basilio comes back to life.

San Francisco Ballet, Don Quixote | Credit: Erik Tomasson


With Don Quixote as the guest of honor, Kitri and Basilio celebrated their marriage with a Grand Pas de Deux. Don Quixote realizes that he has not yet found his Dulcinea and with Sanchohe, he continues on his adventures.

Credit: Rosalie O’Connor


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