RWB School Spotlight feat Coppélia

Throughout the year, Winnipeg is treated with productions from the Royal Winnipeg Ballet company, and they are amazing. However, what a lot of Winnipeggers don’t know is that the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School also puts on their own productions, and these are a wonderful chance to see the up-and-coming dancers in the school, experience some amazing productions, and support the developing arts community in Winnipeg. On Friday evening, I was lucky enough to see Spotlight feat. Coppélia, and it is one of my new favourites!

RWB School_ Spotlight feat. Coppélia

Coppélia is probably the perfect ballet for someone who isn’t familiar with it- it features much of the classical choreography and technique that ballet is known for, it includes a lot of the historical elements that we don’t see in a lot of more recent productions, and it is an entertaining story that is easy to follow! A brief introduction to Coppélia from the Royal Winnipeg Ballet:

“A toymaker, doll, and an admirer intertwine in Coppélia, a light-hearted, family-friendly ballet where love triumphs all.

Dr. Coppélius, a lonely and eccentric toymaker, has fashioned a beautiful life-size doll, Coppélia, who obeys his every command. As she sits placidly on the balcony, she catches the eye of young Franz, who is immediately smitten, much to the displeasure of his fiancé, Swanhilda.

The real heroine of this lively, classical ballet, is not the compliant Coppélia, but the feisty Swanhilda. Vexed by her fiancé’s wandering eye, Swanhilda quickly takes control of the plot, outwitting both Dr. Coppélius and her fickle fiancé. Comic chaos ensues!

Though it first premiered in 1870, it has been argued that this comedy of mistaken identity, based on stories by E.T.A. Hoffmann, is the first “feminist” ballet. A ballet that eventually became the most-performed ballet at the Paris Opera Ballet, but never performed by the RWB Company!”

RWB School Professional Division Coppélia Act I Dance
RWB School Professional Division Students in Coppélia; photo by Kristen Sawatzkey

The pantomime and acting that is featured in Coppélia isn’t seen in a lot of surviving ballet choreography nowadays, and although it can remind you of silent movies, it is hilarious to watch. Sarah Snider as Swanhilda played this role perfectly; her technique is as strong and developed as you would expect from the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School, but her acting skills really made the performance. From Swanhilda’s temper tantrums when dealing with a ridiculous fiance to her tricking the dollmaker, Sarah is lively and full of spark, and you won’t be able to look away from her dancing! The dancers who played Swanhilda’s friends are also spectacular at the acting- there is nothing quite like a gaggle of teenage girls attempting to avoid getting caught sneaking around to make you laugh.

RWB School Professional Division Coppélia, Dollmaker's Shop
RWB School Professional Division Students in Coppélia; photo by Kristen Sawatzkey

The dancers who are portraying all of the dolls are also incredibly talented, and mimic the somewhat robotic style of movement needed to bring them to life! In case you’ve never had to, it is rather difficult to sit perfectly still on stage for more than about 30 seconds- many of the dancers sat for 5 minutes plus, which is an incredible feat unto itself. I could certainly watch this particular scene over and over, as there are so many different dancers moving at once that you want to watch them all but can’t! The dolls’ costumes are all very different but all spectacular- the costuming staff at the RWB have outdone themselves with this production.

RWB School Professional Division Coppélia Doll
RWB School Professional Division Students in Coppélia; photo by Kristen Sawatzkey

There is a great mixture of classical ballet in this piece with character and folk dances; the mazurka in the first act is not only a wonderful chance to see many of the upper level male students performing in arguably some of the best male costumes in ballet, it is also a prime example of how folk dancing has been used for centuries to provide variety and more depth to ballet productions! The mazurka is quite an upbeat piece, and really showcases fast and precise footwork, and is great fun to listen to (when we normally don’t hear ballet). The larger dances in Coppélia, like the mazurka, truly emphasise how talented these students are, and the fact that they are functioning like their own company at such a young age.

RWB School Professional Division Coppélia Kiss
RWB School Professional Division Students in Coppélia; photo by Kristen Sawatzkey

There are two shows left, on May 26th at 2:00pm and 7:30pm at the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre! You can buy your tickets here, this a perfect show to bring your whole family to, and finish off the ballet season. Coppélia is without a doubt the funniest ballet that I have seen, and as it isn’t performed often in Canada, you won’t have many other chances to catch this!!

Do you prefer classical or modern dance?

Until tomorrow,
The Historian!
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12 thoughts on “RWB School Spotlight feat Coppélia

  1. ellenbest24 May 26, 2018 / 1:57 am

    I poped across from the saturday social to say hi 🙋‍♀️This is a very interesting post and honestly If I was anywhere near … Coppellia would be the one I would watch. But you have peked my interest and a possible new look at a form I haven’t thought about since seeing the Balshoi ballet at age 23.
    I have now decided to take my daughter to see Humperdink’s, Hanzel and Grettle at the london royal opera house this Christmas. Thank you.

    Like

    • anhistorianabouttown May 26, 2018 / 6:45 am

      Oh, the Bolshoi is such a talented company (with a long history) but the Royal Ballet is one of my favourite companies- I am so jealous you will be going!! I’m organising a UK trip for sometime in the winter, and I’m trying my best to time it for a Royal Ballet production!

      Like

  2. Debbie Harris May 26, 2018 / 3:08 am

    I love that this is a funny ballet, not something I usually hear associated with ballet!! I’m not that familiar with dance but I really enjoyed your review.

    Like

    • anhistorianabouttown May 26, 2018 / 6:43 am

      Thank you!! A lot of story ballets will have elements of humor, but they are usually limited to a moment here or there, not carrying throughout the entire ballet! It’s a breath of fresh air, which is ironic given that is over a century and a half old!!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Gary May 26, 2018 / 4:28 am

    As ever, wonderful to see your ballet enthusiasm bleeding through this post! I think it’s fabulous you put so much into the history of it all too. Brings something more to the table than just a simple review of watching it. Makes it into the history story alongside the show itself. Great job once again!

    Like

    • anhistorianabouttown May 26, 2018 / 6:47 am

      I find that people will often seek out context and story before seeing a play or musical, but far less often when they are seeing dance- it really makes the world of difference when you see a production! And I’m so glad that you enjoy my ballet-nerdery, I always hope it’s not “too much”!!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Fiona Maclean May 26, 2018 / 5:18 am

    I love the story of Coppelia – and I love both classical and contemporary dance! But I’m in the UK

    Like

    • anhistorianabouttown May 26, 2018 / 6:40 am

      There were several notable UK companies who walk a wonderful line between celebrating the traditions of classical ballet while pushing forward with contemporary choreography!!

      Like

  5. amelia May 26, 2018 / 11:10 am

    How gorgeous! I love the ballet but have never seen this one

    Like

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