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ABT delivers a gentle Coppélia at the Abu Dhabi Music Festival

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The American Ballet Theatre charms audiences with a classic performance of the famous ballet

The performance of Coppélia drew an enthusiastic audience (Photo from Abu Dhabi Festival Facebook Page)

The performance of Coppélia drew an enthusiastic audience
(Photo from Abu Dhabi Festival Facebook Page)

Coppélia is a charming ballet, traditionally recommended as a suitable introduction into the world of classical dance for first-time viewers. The ballet does not require a large cast and constitutes a fun family outing, given the lack of tragic figures or complicated plotlines.

The American Ballet Theatre stuck to the classic interpretation of the choreography, which includes miming to bring more energy and further draw in the audience. Kevin Mckenzi, the artistic director of the American Ballet Theatre, said the staging was done by Frederic Franklin, who was a mentor to him. “It is a very simple and a very charming production,” Mckenzi said. “It’s done in its own way… The dancers will stop the story and give an aside to the audience.”

For the second consecutive performance on 29 March at the Emirates Palace Hotel, the part of Swanhilde was performed by the talented Sarah Lane and the role of the reluctant Franz was performed by Daniil Simkin.

The story is about love, mistaken identity and, of course, dolls. Dr Coppelius creates a life-sized doll and calls her Coppélia. After seeing her dance, Franz falls in love with her. Swanhilde, who is deeply in love with Franz and is his intended, is inconsolable upon finding out. In an attempt to lure Franz back, she breaks into Dr Coppelius’ workshop and steals the doll’s clothes. Unbeknownst to her, Franz, wanting to meet Coppélia, sneaks into the doctor’s workshop as well.

Franz is found out and after a bit of struggle with the doctor, things calm down. The doctor pretends to listen to him while in fact is administering drugs to Franz. He does this because he intends to use Franz’s life force to animate Coppélia. As the doctor brings out the doll, he is unaware that it is Swanhilde, but she is found out when Dr Coppleius sees Coppélia undressed and disheveled. Franz and Swanhilde escape as the doctor chases after them.

The final act sees a reconciliation between both the doctor and the couple, as well as between Franz and Swanhilde, who then marry.

The American Ballet Theatre delivered a fine performance, albeit after a bit of a rocky start with some synchronisation issues among the corps de ballet. However, the ballet really came together in the second act when Swanhilde accidentally revives the dolls in Dr Coppelius’ workshop. The festive atmosphere evoked laughter and joy from the audience.

Lane delivered an exquisite performance as she transformed from a fluid and passionate lover to a robotic doll. She mastered the stiff movements required for the part very masterfully and delivered a lot of emotion in her dance.

The music was played by the incomparable Dresden Philharmonic, which created a dreamy, melodic and enchanting world for the audience.

Costumes and set design played a great role in the charming ballet, and keeping with the mystical theme, the costumes were light-colored and glittery, perfectly matched with the storyline and the graceful, fluid dancing.

As an introduction of the American Ballet Theatre to the Emirati society, the ballet was a fine choice, but perhaps in the future, we will be able to watch the ballet company use its full potential in a more challenging ballet.


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