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Coppelia – Pavilion Theatre, Worthing

Music: Leo Delibes

Choreographer: Christopher Lee Wright

Ballet Mistress/Additional Choreography: Emily Hufton

Reviewer: Bill Avenell

[rating:4.5]

 

The Pavilion Theatre is ‘on a roll’. I have been to three widely differing shows in the past month and rated them from Good to Better to (last night’s Vienna Festival Ballet’s performance of Coppelia) Best.

Delibe’s take on the old Hoffman story of the inventor creating a doll which he tries to bring to life but is confounded by two young villagers, is a light-hearted story and the Vienna Festival Ballet did indeed perform it light heartedly.

Unfortunately there was some confusion with the information given in the programme because the cast list and the stage photos did not match up but I have no doubt that the two principals, Swanhilda and Franz were danced by Olga Petiteau and Miguel Piquer. And they danced it excellently.

Petiteau’s acting was a delight. She conveyed a degree of youthful coquettishness in the way she moved around the stage. She exercised some real control, particularly in the opening pas de deux and her dancing of the wedding scene solos, and her transformation from doll to girl and back again was very enjoyable. Piquer displayed that wonderful ability of a skilled dancer to make it all seem so effortless. On the small Pavilion stage he absolutely dominated proceedings and those ‘feet twiddling’ entrechats were spectacular.

No doubt there is a classical ballet term for the older performer who takes the largely walk around rôles essential to the plot and usually doesn’t get a mention, but last night (again I hope I have worked this out correctly) the rôle of Dr Coppelius was taken by Ricardo Pereira and he deserves a mention because he played it to perfection. Other highlights were ‘Dawn’ (Sophie Stanton I think) and Tamara Ledermann’s ‘Prayer’. The costumes were bright, the set inventive (alas no credits were given) but perhaps the best thing of all was that, for such a small company, the overall standard of dancing was very high indeed.

The only reason they don’t get a 5 star rating is for reasons largely beyond the company’s control. Delibe’s score is one of those ‘so that’s where that comes from’ pieces of music, but although the sound system and (again an un-credited) recording was adequate, the lack of a live orchestra always takes something away from the performance. The lighting could have been more atmospheric and there was a lack of co-ordination in some of the group dances but the biggest criticism is in a way an inverted compliment for my attentive young companion and I badly missed seeing the dancers’ feet, which is of course impossible in the un-raked auditorium at the Pavilion.

Rather a shame therefore that such an uplifting performance was not seen by more people but what the audience lacked in size they made up for in the enthusiasm of their applause.

Vienna Festival Ballet is now touring until May 2013

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