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Ballet Theatre of Ohio performing ‘Coppelia’

4/26/2012 - West Side Leader
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By Roger Durbin

Ballet Theatre of Ohio will perform “Coppelia” May 5 at 2 and 7 p.m. and May 6 at 2 p.m. at the Akron Civic Theatre.
Photo courtesy of Ballet Theatre of Ohio
DOWNTOWN AKRON — Ballet Theatre of Ohio (BTO) Artistic Director and Choreographer Christine Meneer has called “Coppelia” her personal favorite of the ballets she has created.

The company will perform this work for the third time May 5 at 2 and 7 p.m. and May 6 at 2 p.m. at the Akron Civic Theatre.

Meneer said one reason why the ballet is one of her favorites is because it has a strong and entertaining storyline. This “last of the Romantic era” story ballet tells the love story of young couple Swanhilda and Franz, who eventually are to be married, but only after having some problems along the way. First off, Franz falls for one of the life-size dolls (Coppelia) that eccentric doll maker Dr. Coppelius fashions, creating a huge jealous streak in Swanhilda. Then, in a pique at seeing her boyfriend trying to be with Coppelia, Swanhilda wreaks havoc on Dr. Coppelius’s shop and very nearly has to give up her dowry (after she has finally gotten her man) to pay for all the damage she has caused. But, all gets resolved and the two willful lovers get together at the end amidst a village celebration — all done out in dance of course — for all those about to be married.

Meneer has such a gift for narrative and getting her dancers to act and develop character through dance that you suspend your disbelief and leave all sense of murky mucky reality behind. For example, you are not supposed to ask sensible questions like: How come no one in this tiny village seems to know that Dr. Coppelius makes these dolls? Why would Swanhilda want someone who is so easily led astray? That sort of thing.

Instead, you are to accept the story as given, and watch the dance that shows us young love, that captivates the character of quaint eastern European people and their village and hints magically that maybe dolls can truly come to life.

Meneer’s version is a thought-out performance that illuminates the music that drives it. The set that was created (and partially borrowed) for this production has to be seen to be fully appreciated. The swivel apparatus that swivels us both inside and outside of Dr. Coppelius’ doll factory is awesome to behold and requires a trained person to operate it. The costumes are lavish and true to the setting but still allow the dancers to have full range of motion.

Veteran area dancer Brian Murphy will perform the role of Dr. Coppelius. He has performed the part for other ballets and will bring that experience to BTO’s version. Damien Highfield will dance the part of the male lead, Franz, while Sarah Ruesch will dance the role of Swanhilda.

Tickets range in price from $18 to $30, with discounts available through BTO by calling 330-688-6065 or visiting www.ballettheatreohio.org. Tickets also are available through the Civic Theatre Box Office at 330-253-2488 or through TicketMaster at 330-945-9400.

Roger Durbin is professor emeritus of bibliography at The University of Akron and board director of the Dance Critics Association. To contact him, email r.durbin@sbcglobal.net.

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