ballet · Dance

Ballet classics – Coppélia


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! 

Alicia 💗

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ballet · Dance

Ballet classics – Giselle

Giselle is a story about the true power of love, and I can’t help but be wrapped up in it!

Originally performed in 1842, Giselle was written in the romantic era of ballet (think long flowing tulle skirts and picture perfect postcard poses) It’s about a peasant girl Giselle, who lives a simple and happy life with her mother. Giselle loves to dance, but her mother always worries about her and is overprotective, as she has a weak heart. 

During festivities for Harvest, a young nobleman, Duke Albrecht, visits the village and falls madly in love with Giselle, even though he is already betrothed to another, Bathilde. With help from his squire, he disguises himself as a peasant boy by the name of Loys, and woos Giselle, who falls in love with him.

Giselle has another admirer in the village, Hilarion, who goes to Giselle to warn her Loys cannot be trusted, and not to get involved with him, but she does not listen. At the festivities, there is lots of dancing, and Giselle and Loys dance together. Meanwhile Hilarion has discovered the truth about Loys, and outs his secret in front of everyone. Poor Giselle is devastated at being deceived by her lover, flies into a crazed episode “the mad scene” completely heartbroken, she starts to dance irratically, which proves too much for her fragile heart, and she passes away in Albrecht’s arms, who then flees the village in guilt.

Hilarion visits Giselle’s grave, but is scared away by The Wilis, a group of maiden spirits who were betrayed by their lovers. Their leader Myrtha, is particularly scornful, and together they seek out men and make them dance until they die of exhaustion as their revenge. Myrtha summons Giselle from her grave, just as Albrecht comes to pay his respects. He begs Giselle for forgiveness, and because her love for him is so strong, she accepts, then disappears, Albrecht following behind.

Meanwhile The Wilis have found Hilarion, made him dance until exhaustion, then drowned him in a lake. They then turn on Albrecht. He. He and Giselle beg Myrtha for him to be spared, but she does not listen, and makes him dance until dawn. However, the power of Giselle’s love is so strong, it breaks the Wilis spell, and Albrecht lives. At sunrise, the wilis return to their graves, but Giselle’s love has also broken their hold over her. She  returns to her grave and can rest in peace.

The choreography plays a big part in this ballet, particularly for The Wilis. The endless courus, that glide so effortlessly across the floor, as though they were hovering, the lightness and height in the jetes, combined with the floating tulle skirts, and continuous flow of the arms in ports de bras, actually transform them into ghosts right before your eyes!

Such a beautiful story, one that is still relevant today. It offers hope,that even though we can be hurt, lied to, betrayed and heartbroken, love really is the most powerful thing. It will mend, it will repair, it will teach us to trust again. And there’s no better story than that!
Alicia 💗

ballet · Dance

Ballet Classics – Swan Lake

This is a new series of blogs about the great ballet classic stories, that we may or may not be familiar with. You may have seen one of them, you may have seen them all, so this series will either reignite your passion for your favourite, or enlighten you  with a new story.

How could I begin without starting with Swan Lake. It is my, and I’m sure, many of yours, favourite ballet. It is a tale of enchantment, love, perseverance, deceit and betrayal. The main character, Odette has been put under a curse by the evil Rothbart. By day she is forced to live as a swan, with others who suffer the same fate, only transforming to her human form at night. The only way to break the spell is for a man to declare eternal love for her. Enter Primce Seigfreid. He discovers Odette on a hunting trip and completely captivated by her, falls in love. He slowly wins the love of Odette, and invites her to a ball at the palace. Rothbart is furious that his spell might be broken, so sends his daughter Odile, to the ball. She entices and tricks poor Siegfried into him thinking she is Odette, and he declares his love for her. At this, Odette’s heart is broken. Unable to cope with living as a swan forever, she takes her own life, as does Prince Siegfried, who is distraught at the realisation of what has happened. Don’t worry though, true love conquers all, all they are reunited in death for eternity.

I’m not entirely sure what makes Swan Lake such a hit. I think it’s a real combination of things coming together to create a masterpiece that even non ballet lovers have taken to their hearts. The music, written by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky,  is wonderful at setting the tone for each event. The costumes for the swans encapsulate the elegance, the signature moves and positions which are immediately recognisable, and the wonderful choreography and perfect synchronicity of the corps de ballet, which have a huge role in telling the story, and wouldn’t be the same without them. 

My favourite part about Swan Lake, which has always inspired me, is that the roles of Odette and Odile, are played by the same ballerina. Each role is strenuous enough that they could be separate roles, so the prima ballerina must have enough strength and stamina to be able to perform both. It’s the most physically demanding of all the balllets. Not only must the ballerina have the technical ability, she must be the ultimate actress. She must be able to portray Odette/Odile in their own right. Facial expressions, subtle changes in posture, demeanour. If you’ve ever seen Swan Lake, it’s the ballerina is almost unrecognisable from when she starts as the white swan, the epitome of purity, delicate, shy, elusive, unassuming and gentile, to when she enters as the black swan, bold and brash, sly, seductive and confident. They are polar opposites, and for the same ballerina to use all her skills and allow her to transform, is a true spectacle and what contributes to the magic.

I cannot write this blog without talking about ‘the dying swan’ scene. The music is haunting. It was created for the great Anna pavlova. If you haven’t seen her perform it, I urge you to look it up. Yes, you can tell how much ballet technique has progressed, but the feeling she puts into it is like no other. She really becomes the dying swan. You can feel her pain and heartache. You can feel her beginning to get tired and let go, then the frantic last moments of resistance before she finally gives in and succumbs to death. She is mesmerising.

Ultimately, I think it’s the love at the heart of the story that captivates us. Two peaople coming together, so beautifully, only to be torn apart. We love when love prevails, even if that has to be in death. Love knows no bounds, and Odette and Seigreid remind us of that.

Be sure to keep an eye on my Instagram and Facebook pages, where I’ll be posting some videos and photos of the iconic steps and poses!
Alicia 💗

Dance

Receiving corrections – how to be a good student 

Why do you go to dance? Is it a hobby? Is it a passion? Do you want to improve? Whatever the reason, when you attend a class, you will enevitably receive corrections from the teacher. Here is how you can be a humble student.

I touched up slight on corrections in my last blog post Class etiquette https://amummyfirst.wordpress.com/2017/05/30/class-etiquette-a-guide-to-good-class-manners/  so I’m going to go into a bit more detail to help you.
Firstly, your teacher will assume you are there because you want to be there, and want to LEARN. If you truely want to learn your craft, and excel in it, you have to be humble. No one but no one is born a perfect dancer, you have to work for it. You have to realise your weaknesses and work 10 times harder on them. 


ATTITUDE

Always remember, your teacher WANTS you to improve. They would not give a correction if they did not think you were capable of improving on it. They have faith in you! They don’t pick things out to be mean or embarrass you, it’s quite the opposite. So when you receive a correction, don’t see it as a negative thing, see it as an opportunity to impress your teacher. Prove to them you want to be there! Equally, don’t be offended by a correction. Watch your body language and always be thankful for recieving a correction.


MEMORY

Embarrassment is one thing, flippancy is another. You must REMEMBER what your corrections are. A good way to do this is to have a little notebook with you, and at the end of the class, write down any corrections you were given, while they are fresh in your mind. Once your teacher has given you something to work on, they expect just that. So if you’ve written them down and looked over them a couple of times through the week, you will be able to apply yourself more to those areas when doing that particular exercise. One step better than that, is actually WORK on them at home or in between classes! By practicing your errors over and over, you will slowly improve on them, to the point that one day, you won’t even have to think about doing it, your body will just automatically do it! Practice makes perfect! 


LISTEN

Your teacher won’t be just giving corrections to you during class. They will be firing them out to anyone at any time that they spot something isn’t quite right. This does not mean that it doesn’t imply to you. Whenever you hear a correction, take it upon yourself to self critique. Ask yourself “am I doing that too?” If you are, you can go about fixing it. Even if you’re not, it will only make you aware of what technique is required for that particular aspect of the exercise. By doing this with every correction, you will be improving on your own technique tenfold. Never assume you don’t need a correction, check if you don’t!!!!

So please above all, don’t take it personally. Take it as a chance to shine. There is no better feeling than working hard on something, repetitively over and over, until finally you crack it! The sense of achievement is huge! You will be so proud of yourself, and so will your teacher. Go make them proud!
Alicia 💗