State Theatre, The Arts Centre, Melbourne
By Deborah Searle.
Coppelia is an enchanting traditional ballet with a fun story line and lovable characters. For the Australian Ballet’s rendition of the famous classic, Leanne Stojmenov played the curious and cheeky ‘Swanilda’ with Yosvani Ramos as her mischievous suitor ‘Franz’.
The ballet is light hearted and perfect for all ages. The costumes are stunning and the sets are exquisite, displaying Kristian Fredrikson’s incredible artistic flair. The choreography draws from national character dancing and blends with traditional classical ballet. It is light and bouncy, creating a joyous atmosphere in the theatre.
Stojmenov made an ideal Swanilda. She was every bit the naive, young village girl she needed to be, bringing the doll ‘Coppelia’ to life and tricking both Franz and the doll’s creator, ‘Dr Coppelius’. Her acting was textbook and her dancing was of course, flawless. I very much enjoyed watching Stojmenov embrace her character.
The performances by Swanilda and Franz’s friends, danced by the Corpyphees, with the addition of Corp dancers Halaina Hills, Chengwu Guo, John-Paul Idaszak and Jarryd Madden, were jubilant and danced with strength and clarity.
Act 2, inside the house of Dr Coppelius with his weird and wonderful toys, was the highlight of the show for me. Stojmenov’s dancing as the doll was cute, isolated and very convincing. Damien Welch, playing Dr Coppelius, was not as quirky as I would have liked, but it was nice to see him return to the stage after retiring from his role as Principal dancer last year. However, at the end of Act 2 there was a curtain call just for Damien Welch, which I found a little strange, considering that there was still an entire act to go.
Act 3 was a feast of dancing, as we were treated to the show’s pas de deux, solos by the two leads and fabulously fun group numbers in the celebration of Swanilda and Franz’s wedding. We enjoyed a solo by Ramos where he showed us his skills as a Principal dancer, and Stojmenov proved why she is climbing the ranks. Gina Brescianini, dancing ‘Dawn’, was breathtakingly beautiful in a soft pink and yellow costume and Juliet Burnett as ‘Prayer’ highlighted her training and control.
The Corp de Ballet were all strong dancers, however at times they were a little out of line or synchronization. My only other gripe was the lack of chemistry between Stojmenov and Ramos. They seemed more like friends than lovers, and so the wedding scene at the end seemed a little forced.
The orchestra were very tight. The timing is so regular in Delibes’ score for Coppelia that it would be very obvious if they weren’t. Most importantly though, the music was well catered to the needs of the dancers. The conductor slowed the score, sped it up slightly or made the music softer or louder for the dancers as need be. This was not to help the dancers technically or with timing, but to help them communicate dramatically. Orchestra Victoria provided us with an independently enjoyable musical experience.
Dame Peggy van Praagh and George Ogilvie’s 1979 production of Coppelia is a delight. The talented 2010 cast of dancers and musicians brought the work to life and back into the hearts of many ballet lovers.