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Enamel Eyes from 1870 to 2012

Pacific Northwest Ballet's 'Coppelia'

by Dean Speer

June 2 , 2012-- McCaw Hall, Seattle, WA

An icon among the limited number of existing comedic classical ballets, “Coppélia,” was the concluding presentation of Pacific Northwest Ballet's 2011-12 subscription series at Seattle’s McCaw Hall in early June.

The lilac infused sets and costumes by Italian designer Roberta Guidi di Bagno are as charming as they are functional and lovely. The staging by Judith Fugate and Garielle Whittle of this Danilova/Balanchine 1974 re-staging is spot-on , with never a dull moment and many, many dance moments that long resonate in the mind’s eye.

New to me in the principal roles were Lesley Rausch as the girl-next-door, Swanhilda, her fetching but not all that bright fiancé Franz, danced by Jerome Tisserand, and as that much-maligned and misunderstood dreamer of an inventor and toy-monger Dr. Coppelius, William Lin-Yee. Rausch is being given more and more opportunities in principal roles and it’s rewarding to see her hard work and talent paying off. She has all the right attributes for this soubrette part – comfort with acting, an excellent technique and line, and good timing. Tisserand , being from France, comes from a geographic source closer to where this ballet is supposed to take place and inserts the kind of phrasing and crisp, lively approach I’ve come to expect and enjoy from European trained dancers. Lin-Yee is one of those personalities who has a perpetual twinkle in his eye and my guess is that he may be someone who likes to have mischievous fun. He does have fun portraying the doctor – an old and odd character who dithers and tinkers but who has occasional success. Look at the doll, Coppélia – her mechanical moves are really genius at the doll level.

Outstanding in Act III, the wedding and Festival of the Bells, were Carrie Imler, Laura Gilbreath, and Maria Chapman each respectively representing the early life cycle of a typical day – the Dawn, Prayer, followed by Spinning [work]. Imler was made for this kind of part and it fit her like a glove. Gilbreath seemed to float and was imbued with the soulful spirituality associated with prayer, while Chapman’s bravura technique served the many turning leaps and strength necessary.

Usually not presented in most productions, but very effectively demonstrating a morality “play” was the “Discord and War” segment with Lindsi Dec and Kiyon Gaines leading the charge of what appear to be Amazon women and Roman Soldiers, each dressed in the kind of marvelous garb depicted in both serious history and cartoon – short pleated skirts, light armor, and headpieces with an upside down scrub brush. Big movement with high skipping parallel passes and leaps.

Of course high on the “ah!” scale were the 24 pink tutu-clad students who enter with great energy, clean lines, good presence and verve, with the sharp and solid Leta Biasucci dancing, leading them through what’s quite a bit of choreography – they are onstage for much of this act, their showcase being the famous and lilting Waltz of the Hours.

This act builds to a very satisfactory tutti coda and finale which left us humming Délibes’ tunes and bouncing on our toes.

The mighty PNB Orchestra accompanied under the watchful baton of Emil de Cou.

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