PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — This Thursday is the world premier of the Pennsylvania Ballet’s Don Quixote.
It’s the latest adaptation of the classic comedy by Cervantes — but this version focuses on a love story, and the stars of the show are uniquely equipped to portray their parts.
These dancers are playing on stage loves, which comes easily because they are also newly engaged. This couple’s true love story transcends the stage and takes them from Cuba, around the world, and finally to Philadelphia.
Etienne Diaz and Mayara Pineiro call the Pennsylvania Ballet home.
The 40 members of the company are family. They spend hours together in the classroom, and for the last three weeks at rehearsal.
With some final notes from artistic director Angel Corella, Etienne and Mayara are just about ready for opening night as leads in the Ballet’s Don Quixote.
I’m very excited,” Mayara said.
“For me it’s going way too fast,” Etienne said. “I wish it was a little bit slower so I could enjoy it more.”
A corps member — this is the first lead for Etienne in his two seasons with the ballet — and it’s the first time he and Mayara — a soloist — will star together as on-stage loves.
Etienne, the dashing but poor Basilio. Mayara, the inn keeper’s daughter Kitri…meant to marry a man of means.
“The story is all about that,” Etienne said. “Them trying to run away together and stay together.”
Characters not far removed from the pair’s real life. After dating for six years, last month, Etienne asked Mayara to marry him.
She said yes.
“That was a surprise. I didn’t expect that,” said Mayara. “It was very beautiful.”
But their love story runs deeper.
Both from Cuba, the couple first met in Florida after Mayara sought asylum in the United States at 17 years old.
“When I came to the United States to live with my uncle, he told me he couldn’t afford it,” Mayara said. “So I had to stop dancing and start working.
“I told her I was going to help her get back to dancing,” Etienne said.
He helped Mayara with training — and then they traveled the world, dancing in all the same companies as each other’s source of support.
On Thursday, before the curtain rises, Etienne and Mayara will take a quiet moment before taking the stage.
“We smile before we go to stage,” Mayara said. “We kiss, we wish good luck.”
“A little kiss before we go on stage,” Etienne said, “and everything is fine.”
A true love story on stage and off.
Etienne and Mayara plan to get married in Cuba next summer.
Don Quixote starts Thursday and runs through March 13 at the Academy of Music.