Pacific Northwest Ballet gives Seattle its first taste of ‘Coppelia’

  • By Jackson Holtz Herald Writer
  • Thursday, May 27, 2010 5:50pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

SEATTLE — George Balanchine, the storied co-founder of the New York City Ballet, was known for his avant-garde dances.

With “Coppelia,” however, Balanchine returned to the traditional.

He re-envisioned the dance out of his memories of growing up in Russia, performing an earlier version by Marius Petipa. In 1974, Balanchine brought his own “Coppelia” to the New York stage.

Next week, the Pacific Northwest Ballet company will introduce Balanchine’s “Coppelia” to local audiences, complete with a brand new set production.

Artistic director Peter Boal said he couldn’t be more excited. For Boal, it’s a dream come true.

“It’s been a long time coming here,” he said.

Since Boal took the artistic reins in Seattle five years ago, he has planned on producing “Coppelia.”

Balnchine’s “Coppelia” made a profound impact on him as a 9-year-old.

“It was the ballet I was watching when I decided to dance,” he said.

“Coppelia” is known as one of the happiest ballets. Based on the book by Charles Nuitter, “Coppelia” tells the story of young lovers, Swanilda and Franz, whose courtship is interrupted by the eccentric inventor Dr. Coppelius.

Coppelius creates a lifelike doll that captures Franz’s imagination. He attempts a clandestine rendezvous with the doll. Swanilda learns of the planned tryst and tries to even the score by dressing as the doll and pretending to come to life.

Ultimately, the pair is reconciled, and the ballet culminates with wedding-day festivities and an array of spectacular dances.

The score is by French composer Leo Delibes, considered legendary for his ability to illustrate dance and inspire action.

For this production, the Seattle company commissioned costumes by Italian designer Roberta Guidi di Bagno. Expect lots of tulle, tutus and tiaras, Boal said. The costumes have a fresh color palette that’s bright and optimistic.

“It feels like she’s painting the stage,” he said.

Boal plans to take the stage in Seattle for the first time in “Coppelia.” He won’t be dancing. Instead, he will be limp around as Coppelius.

“I get to drag a couple of the guys across the stage by their ears,” he said.

“Coppelia” is known as a masterpiece of characterization and comic timing. While some ballets tend to play better for adult or youth audiences, Coppelia” should delight all ages, Boal said.

“It’s good for the whole family.”

Reporter Jackson Holtz: 425-339-3437,

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