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Bolshoi Ballet

'Coppelia'

by Carmel Morgan

May 31, 2012-- Opera House, John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Washington, DC

Coppelia is a favorite of young aspiring ballerinas. I remember fondly the childhood book of ballets I had (in coloring book form). I was totally charmed by the magical story of the doll. The Bolshoi Ballet’s production of Coppelia was like a coloring book come to life. The costumes – bright red, yellow, and blue – burst forth like a box of happy crayons, crisp and simple. The dancing was equally vibrant and fun. And the music by Leo Delibes absolutely sparkled.

The mischievous Swanilda, on Thursday evening danced by Anastasia Stashkevich, grew stronger and more likable as the evening progressed. At first, I admit, I wasn’t thrilled with Stashkevich’s performance. A very petite blonde, her acting initially seemed an odd combination of lackluster and over-exaggerated. Her dancing, filled with bouncy precision, had a vitality that didn’t come through in her expression. However, somehow I warmed up to her. In Acts II and III, Stashkevich became bolder. Her character became more well-defined, her gestures more meaningful, her dancing more assured. She’s wispy thin and girlish, which is appropriate for Swanilda. As a doll, her stiffness and small size were assets to be sure. Because she’s such a tiny dancer, she was easily swept into the air like a scarf when she was lifted. Yet I had hoped for a little more playfulness. Stashkevich pouted plenty, but she didn’t quite channel a true devious imp. Moreover, Stashkevich, while technically good, was less of a musical dancer than I’d hoped to see. Doubtless she’ll continue to improve.

Frantz, danced by Vyacheslav Lopatin, came out of the gates with superior dancing and character and immediately charmed the audience. He kept up his energy and innocence throughout. Others who stood out were Alexey Loparevich, an excellent Coppelius, and Anna Tikhomirova as Folie. Tikhomirova had already received some significant buzz from her opening night performance earlier in the week, and she did not disappoint. I’d swear that her legs are so long she could cover the entire stage in two leaps. When she danced, she was incredibly fast and light. Her arms and legs flew out like a jumping jack puppet.

The ballet felt like it was over in a blink, which I think was a positive thing. It didn’t drag on as some story ballets do. It’s hard to be very critical of Coppelia because the dancing was thoroughly entertaining. I highly recommend this 2009 choreographic revival by Sergei Vikharev. One gripe, however, that probably can’t be helped, was the crowded look of the stage at the Kennedy Center. Dancers were crammed almost shoulder to shoulder on occasion. I imagine they have more room to spread out and truly move on the Bolshoi’s home stage, where I’d love to see them one day.

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