As the first production in Oklahoma City Ballet's 40th anniversary season, “Coppelia” proved to be an excellent choice, integrating colorful fairy tale-like sets, a lively score by Leo Delibes and a delightful story told in the language of 19th-century ballet.
In a fascinating talk before the performance, Camille Hardy, dance historian and University of Oklahoma faculty member, said OKC Ballet founders Miguel Terekhov and Yvonne Chouteau have a strong connection with this ballet. During their time with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, Terekhov was noted for his performance as Dr. Coppelius, and Chouteau received wide acclaim in her role as Prayer.
Based on stories by E.T.A. Hoffman, OKC Ballet's version of “Coppelia” emphasized the comedic elements in this story of love and mistaken identity. Using as much of the original choreography by Arthur St. Leon as possible, artistic director Robert Mills and ballet master Jacob Sparso invited the audience into a world of lighthearted fantasy.
The star of the ballet is Swanhilda, danced by Miki Kawamura, who impersonates the lifelike doll Coppelia to fool its creator, Dr. Coppelius, and to rescue her lover, Franz. Kawamura charmed the audience from her first appearance on stage and portrayed Swanhilda as more sweetly mischievous than minxish.
She is a very musical dancer and seemed to express the very notes of Delibes' lilting score through her movement. Her petite batterie and series of turns around the stage were impeccable and, despite a minor bobble in a very difficult series of hops en pointe, her dancing was lovely.
She excelled as an actress, though, in the second act that takes place in the workshop of Dr. Coppelius as she fools him into thinking his doll has come alive. Kawamura and Mills, who played Coppelius, combined perfect comedic timing with the ability to make every choreographed phrase look spontaneous, to the great enjoyment of the audience.
Swanhilda's lover Franz was danced by Yui Sato, a dancer new to the company this year. Sato has stage presence and clear, clean technique. It will be interesting to see him in other roles throughout the
Standout moments for the corps de ballet included the first act mazurka/czardas that was danced with great verve and energy, as well as the lyrical third act “Waltz of the Hours,” which featured another new dancer, Ellany Abbott. Grace Medaugh's dancing was luminous and airy in the Dawn variation, also in the final act.
While not a virtuosic showpiece, OKC Ballet's “Coppelia” provided a happy, fun-filled and visually appealing production perfectly suited to the youthful energy of the OKC Ballet.
— Kathleen Redwine