Cape Town City Ballet’s short run of David Poole’s Coppelia is fun and cheerful, full of comedy and quirky characters. Accompanied by the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra (conducted by Brandon Phillips) the show starts with a rousing prologue that not only highlights the various sections of the orchestra but introduces us to some of the recurring motifs of Delibes’ stunning score. As the curtain opens the audience is taken back in time to a quaint village and we are introduced to all its colourful and entertaining inhabitants.
Cleo Ames dances the lead role of Swanilda (who pretends to be the doll Coppelia) alongside Martin Milner as her betrothed Franz. Both Ames and Milner are very charismatic performers and Ames embodies the joy, naivety and emotional rollercoaster of this youthful character with charm and humour. Her physicality as the doll and isolated movements are spot on and she wows the audience throughout with her flourishing turns, however she does occasionally break character when executing and concentrating on the more technically challenging steps. Milner is gracefully poised with clean technique with the exception of some of his cabrioles and fouette turns when he loses his foot extension and breaks the line. Their partnership, full of flirtatious energy and strong solos, is one to watch grow into the future. Still a little hesitant at times, steadiness will no doubt come with time and experience.
There are many other diverting characters in this production including the Burgomeister and his wife, Sharon, danced by Sarah-Lee Chapman, as well as the various personae adopted by Swanilda’s friends. A highlight – inevitably – is Jonny Bovang as the eccentric Dr Coppelius. Yet beyond all of this, the most impressive aspect of the production is the brilliantly performed townsfolk dances from the corps de ballet. They execute Poole’s exciting choreography and fast footwork with clarity and precision making the percussive foot-stomping, that is typical of the national dance, all the more jubilant and effective. The entire first act is vibrant and bursting with energy which then calms during the second act inside Dr Coppelius’ workshop but is no less engaging.
In this act we get to see the different dolls come to life, one of which is a Spanish doll performed stunningly by Leane Theunissen whose subtlety and piercing gaze is very alluring. It is a very funny scene with Dr Coppelius getting Franz drunk in order to steal his soul and give it to Coppelia, who is in fact Swanilda dressed as the doll to try help Franz get away. Confusion and chaos ensue with some well-timed slapstick all resulting in their eventual escape.
The festivities of the final act see Swanilda and Franz married with an array of light-hearted dances to celebrate, wrapping up a delightful production. This ballet is great for all ages. With its larger-than-life characters, beautiful costumes and some fantastic routines it is a cheerful night out for all.
Cape Town City Ballet’s Coppelia runs at the Artscape Opera House in Cape Town from 25 to 29 May 2016.