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MY FIRST BALLET: COPPELIA – Peacock Theatre, London.

Coppelia_And_Machine_0178 (2)-1My First Ballet is a series of ballets produced by The English National Ballet including Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and their current production of Coppelia aiming to introduce youngsters into the world of ballet. Performed by second year students at the English National Ballet School, Coppelia tells the tale of a soon to be married couple Swanhilda and Frantz who get into a lover’s tiff over Dr. Coppelius’ beautiful doll, Coppelia, whom he wishes to bring to life. A comic Act 2 ensues whereby Swanhilda assumes the role of the doll to trick the Toy Maker and save her beloved Frantz and of course everything ends merrily in a wedding – couples reunited and Dr. Coppelius accepted for all his eccentricities.

Originally performed in 1870, this Spring Coppelia has been adapted for a younger audience by cutting down anything unnecessary to the plot, presenting us with a smaller cast of youthful dancers and adding in a narration by Dr. Coppelius. The choreography by George Williamson, recognisably based on an original production by Ronald Hynd and Marius Petipa, gives this ballet a distinctly traditional Eastern European feel which compliments the original melodic score by Leo Delibes beautifully. Louie Whitemore’s set design comprises of a charming village square which contrasts nicely with Dr. Coppelius’ dark and sinister toy making workshop in Act 2.

In this performance, Swanhilda is danced by American born Caroline Echerd who performs the role with personality and precision. Performing for children, it is more important than ever to get the story across and Echerd does this successfully; expressive and with great comic timing while maintaining beautiful line and pose throughout. Frantz is played by an energetic Marcio Teixeira and Do. Coppelius by Daniel Kraus who, though capturing the character perfectly in movement, fails to transfer this into the narration, which is monotonal and without clear thought or throughline. It is understandable to have the story told through speech as well as dance to allow for children to follow more easily, not at all a bad idea, but in this case I think it mars the production. The dancers are engaging and tell the story well and that on its own is enough to keep a young audience captivated. After all, it is ballet we are celebrating here and to add in another medium somehow seems to take away from the fact that ballets have been telling audiences stories solely through dance for centuries.

My First Ballet: Coppelia makes for a very charming experience and certainly a popular one: the auditorium at The Peacock Theatre was packed with girls and boys from toddlers through to early teens, who were thoroughly engaged throughout: laughing at the comic choreography and solemn when Dr. Coppelius finds his beloved doll did not come to life after all. Certainly a positive way to introduce young people to the ballet (and even the odd adult too!)

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Reviewed 08/04/14

By Amy Lawrence

8th – 19th April 2014
Peacock Theatre, London, WC2.

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