I’ve always been fond of this ballet. I love the theatrics involved, the doll-like actions and the fact that ballet doesn’t have to be serious – it can have humour too! Coppélia is a light hearted ballet, and popular as an introduction to ballet for young children.
The story starts out with 2 young lovers, Swanilda and Franz, who are planning to marry during a village festival. Swanilda has recently noticed Franz paying a lot of attention to a girl named Coppélia, who sits on the balcony of a house owned by local crazy inventor Dr Coppélius. Franz is determined to catch her attention, and Swanilda is left heartbroken and runs away.
One day, Dr Coppélius goes out, and loses his keys. Swanilda finds them, and with her friends, goes to investigate his house, and find out more about Coppélia. At the same time, Franz has decided to climb up to the balcony to meet the girl he is captivated with.
Upon entering, Swanilda realised that all the people in the room are in fact life like dolls, including Coppélia! She and her friends begin to wind all the dolls up. Dr Coppeélius returns, and is angry the girls have trespassed and disturbed his work, throws them out! He then finds Franz on the balcony but instead of sending him away as well, he invites him in. Unbeknown to Franz, the Dr wants to bring Coppélia to life, but needs a human sacrifice! He intends to kill Franz and take his soul to put into Coppélia. He feeds Franz some bread that has sleeping powder on it and Franz falls asleep.
However Swanilda has been hiding in the workshop the whole time! She dresses up in Coppélia’s clothes and begins dancing, pretending the doll has come to life! She quickly wakes Franz, then winds up all the other dolls again to help them escape. Dr Coppélius is sad to find a lifeless Coppélia still behind the curtain.
As Franz and Swanilda are about to make their vows, Dr Coppélius interrupts and angrily demands payment for the damages they caused. Swanilda is sad that she has caused an old man such grief so offers her dowry as an apology. Franz steps in and offers to pay the Dr instead. Just then, the village Mayor gives the Dr a big of money. The happy couple marry and everyone celebrates.
This is a ballet that not only the audience but the dancers themselves can have a lot of fun with. They can really use their acting skills, their comedic timing, their over the top dance moves, particularly for the dancer as Coppélia. When I was younger, I attended a repertoire workshop, and we were all taught how to be transformed into dolls! It was so much fun! Very different to ballet in ways, flexed feet, rigid body, bent square arms. I love how subtle changes in choreography can instantly give a dancer a different feel, or in this case, a wooden one!
If you haven’t seen this ballet, I urge you to watch it next time you have the opportunity. You be pleasantly surprised how ballet and comedy can come together so easily!