Don Quixote is set in Spain and inspired by the novel by Miguel de Cervantes. It was first performed in 1869 at the Imperial Bolshoi Theatre, Moscow and was the first collaboration between Marius Petipa and Ludwig Minkus.

The work was remade by Petipa in 1871 and by Alexander Gorsky in 1902 , creating the dream of the Dryads scene. Balanchine created his version in 1965 for New York City Ballet, using new music by Nicolas Nabokov and himself in the title role. This theme continued with Baryshnikov staging his own version for ABT in 1978, developing the role of Basilio for his own strengths.

The prologue to Act I in Don Quixote begins with him having a vision of the beautiful Dulcinea, and he sets out on a quest with his squire, Sancho Panza to find this beauty.

Kitri, the daughter of the innkeeper, Lorenzo, is in love with the barber, Basilio. She discovers that her father has promised her to the nobleman, Gamache. However, Don Quixote sees Kitri and believes she must be Dulcinea. Kitri and Basilio run away to a gypsy camp.

In Act II Don Q and Sancho arrive at the camp and as the wind picks up the windmill sails turn faster and Don Q believes it to be a giant, trying to attack the camp and Kitri, so he fights the windmill. Don Q dreams of a garden of Dryads and Kitri. Meanwhile Gamache and Lorenzo arrive, looking for Kitri and wake Don Q. Kitri is back in the village, being hidden by the villagers, but Lorenzo makes her accept Gamache. In horror, Basilio fakes his suicide and Lorenzo changes his mind and lets the pair marry.

Act III is the wedding celebration of Kitri and Basilio and Don Q heads off on a new adventure!