Good news awaited members of the press at a National Opera press conference recently, with officials announcing the establishment of a school of dance. But the gathering’s focus of attention was the National Opera’s new production of «Don Quixote,» Ludwig Minkus’s celebrated ballet, due to be presented in its authentic and complete form at the Herod Atticus Theater on Thursday and Friday. The choreography, based on the original by Marius Petipa, was developed by Mariinsky Ballet Theater soloist Igor Zelensky, who also performs the role of Basilio. «The National Opera Ballet has made considerable progress in the last few years,» said Loukas Karytinos, the National Opera’s artistic director. «The dance school will cater exclusively to the training of dancers – but not teachers. In this way, the corps du ballet will eventually achieve the necessary technical homogeneity.» Dancer/choreographer Zelensky talked about the «Don Quixote» production. «I’m really pleased to be back in Athens to dance with the National Opera Ballet Company. I believe that the company gets better and better every year,» said the prominent Russian dancer, who, in the last few years, has collaborated closely with the National Opera. This year, Zelensky was assisted by Russian Kirov star Tatiana Terechova. «’Don Quixote’ wins the public’s heart,» said principal National Opera dancer Alina Stergianou. «It is important to dance alongside an artist of the caliber of Zelensky, someone who stimulates you to dance better. Dance is beginning to blossom in Greece. We have to appreciate those dancers who are true professionals – whether Greek or foreigners.» Based on a subplot of Cervantes’s epic novel, the ballet focuses on the love affair between Kitri and the young barber Basilio, while Don Quixote makes only a brief appearance. Beautiful Kitri and Basilio are in love, but her father wishes to arrange for her marry a wealthy fellow-villager. When the young couple elopes, they wander around the country, where they run across Don Quixote. He is instantly smitten with Kitri – firmly convinced she is the Dulcinea of his dreams. At the Herod Atticus Theater, the National Opera Orchestra will be conducted by Ilias Voudouris with set and costume designed by Tota Pritsa. Besides Zelensky and Stergianou, dancers include Stratos Papanoussis, Giorgos Varvariotis, Angeliki Vaena, Emilia Gaspari and Io Kalochristou, among others. «Don Quixote» at the Herod Atticus Theater, on Thursday and Friday. Tickets from Athens Festival box office, 39 Panepistimiou, tel 210.322.1459 or the theater itself, tel 210.323.2771. For credit card reservations, tel 210.322.1459.