TOTS AND TEENS TACKLE NBT ACADEMY “COPPELIA”
By: Hal de Becker
More than 200 young students of the Academy of Nevada Ballet Theatre recently performed a full length, three Act version of the ballet “Coppelia” at Ham Hall.
The original version was choreographed by Arthur Saint-Leon to the music of Leo Delibes in 1870 for the Paris Opera Ballet. The charming work no doubt provided Parisians welcome distraction on the eve of France’s disastrous war with Prussia.
The tale concerns the well-meaning but bumbling doll-maker Dr. Coppelius who tries to bring to life his prize doll, Coppelia. A village swain, Franz, sees Coppelia and believing she is human flirts with her. He is observed by his jealous sweetheart Swanilda who sneaks into Dr. Coppelius’s workshop determined to confront Coppelia whom she believes is alive and a rival.
This time it is Dr. Coppelius who is fooled. He confuses Swanilda with his doll Coppelia, believing it has finally come to life. The comedy of errors is eventually resolved with the wedding of Franz and Swanilda and the festivities of the villagers.
The village and workshop scenes contained many villagers and a variety of dolls, which provided abundant opportunities for ensemble dances. These were staged by School Director Anna Lantz and the faculty. They skillfully adjusted the choreography to fit the ages and talents of the numerous dancers without losing contact with the ballet’s intrinsic story and humor.
Many of the dances were national in character and included Spanish, Asian, Scottish and Russian as well as generic European village dances. All were well-choreographed by Academy instructors.
Outstanding were the Spanish, Asian, Butterfly and Doll dances by Melissa Ridley; the village ensemble dances and Prayer by Ms. Lantz; and a jaunty Mazurka by Monika Rostomian who also performed as a mother in Act I.
The ‘Tots’, consisting of girls and boys, dominated the production not only by number but also by their charm, skill and talent. Some of the older girls performed on pointe. Especially impressive were Chandler Orenstein who, as Swanilda, showed considerable flair for comedy, and Natalie Browne whose lyrical musicality shone in Prayer.
The youngsters were ably supported by two guest artists from NBT: talented character-dancer-actor Marcus Bugler portrayed Dr. Coppelius, and Steven Goforth, a leading dancer with the professional company, was Franz. In two technically demanding numbers Oslaniel Castillo demonstrated why he has been invited to join NBT next season.
Sets and costumes were elaborate and effective but not credited.
Even with such a large and youthful cast the performance went like clockwork. Stage Manager Tom Mehan and his staff, back stage volunteer helpers and, of course, extensive rehearsal preparation, share the credit.
Performing in a production like Coppelia is a memorable experience in the lives of children and the Moms and Dads who made it possible for them to participate also deserve a lot of credit.