by Terry Rogers
On Friday and Saturday, March 22 and 23, Diamond Dance Company will perform their version of the comic ballet “Coppelia.” The ballet tells the story of a doctor, Dr. Coppelius who creates a life-size dancing doll that Franz, a young man in the village, becomes infatuated with, leading him to discard his girlfriend, Swanhilda. In order to show him the mistake he has made, Swanhilda dresses as the doll. It is while hiding behind a curtain she learns that Dr. Coppelius intends to take Franz’ spirit in order to bring his doll, Coppelia, to life. It is Swanhilda who saves Franz as well as the other dolls.
“This show is the original choreography of Tatiana Akinfieva-Smith,” Aimee String, assistant director at Diamond Dance Company, said. “Our job as artistic staff is tot each the original choreography to our dancers in a way that stays true to the original steps while adapting it to the needs and skill level of the current dancers. It’s a challenging process but also really fun. Because we have so many younger dancers in the company, it was important to us to include them in the ballet. However, the original show did not include Junior Company members. In order to accommodate our youngest dancers, we’ve added parts into the show inlcuding things like minutes, garden animals an insects. I think Tatiana would be really proud of the way we have created opportunities for the younger dancers and woven them into the ballet.”
Misty Yencer, Director at Diamond Dance Company agreed with String, stating that it was very important to the directors to honor as much of the original staging of the ballet as possible although adaptations are inevitable due to the large cast of varying ages and dance levels.
Emma Moorman will play the part of Swanhilda which she tried out for because she wanted a challenging but fun role.
“This part is special because not only is it my first lead role of an entire show, but Coppelia was brought back for Diamond Dance Company’s 20th Anniversary,” Emma said. “This show is very special to many people! Since I received the role of Swanhilda, I want to show everyone why they picked me to do this part. I want to make my directors and family proud. I try to make this part my own with the acting involved. The dancing part of the show is choreographed but I have the freedom to make the acting portion of the show my own.” Emma found the most challenging part of the role is that she is constantly dancing since the show is almost entirely about Swanhilda and she is rarely off stage. It requires a lot of stamina but being on stage was also the most rewarding part as it is a fun and entertaining ballet.
Jillian Kerr will also play the part of Swanhilda, a role she finds very special because it is a role she has always wanted to play.
“After ten years, we are bringing this comedic ballet back and I am very excited to lead it,” Jillian said. “I try to make the part my own by adding things that I feel Swanhilda would do. She is, as the artistic staff say, “a brat.” But, at other times she is very sweet. I try to show the differences and exactly what mood Swanhilda is in at that specific time. The most challenging part is acting like a doll. All of my friends and anyone who knows me knows that I love to laugh. I pretty much laugh at anything. So, being a doll who can’t even smile? That is definitely very difficult.” Jillian believes that the most rewarding part of playing the role is the ability to portray a classic role that has been part of Diamond Dance Company for 20 years. She is thrilled that Swanhilda is being brought back to life in these performances and is very honored to be part of that.
String feels that the biggest challenge to putting on this type of show is the coordination of a large production.
“The production includes about 70 dancers ranging in age from 4 to 16, three professional male dancers, a few adult and child actors, a three-person artistic staff and countless backstage volunteers,” String said. “There are a million small pieces that make up the seamless production that the audience sees on the stage and it is always a bit daunting to coordinate those constantly moving pieces.”
String explained that the show wanted to do something special for the 20th Anniversary. She pointed out that Diamond Dance Company has become well known for their original ballets, including Wizard of Oz, the Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast, but felt it was time to return to their roots.
“In honor of our 20th Anniversary, the artistic staff felt that returning to our roots was very important for our spring production,” String said. “Coppelia is one of my all time favorite ballets and to bring this production back to Milford with Tatiana’s original choreography is a really special way for us to honor her legacy and all that she has brought to Milford.”
Yencer is extremely proud of the work the dancers have done on this ballet.
“I can’t wait to see them take the stage,” Yencer said. “This is one of my favorite ballets. There are so many amazing moments. We find ourselves saying “this is my favorite part” just about every scene. We even had t-shirts made with this hashtag! The interactions between the characters, the magical music, the dynamic choreography and our dedicated dancers really make this production one no one will want to miss.”
The ballet will be performed at Milford High School on Friday, March 22 at 7 PM and on Saturday, March 23 at 2 PM. Tickets are available at www.diamonddanceco.com.
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