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!
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!”
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.
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.
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.
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?