Birmigham Royal Ballet’s ‘Coppélia’

A Review by Alex Speake As the only dancer in a large group of friends, when I say I am going to watch a Ballet I am often made the laughing point of their jokes – and this time was no different. On top of the jokes about the stereotypical attendees of such a performance and the ‘old fashioned’ dance moves it will consist of Birmingham Royal Ballet’s production of ‘Coppélia’ was also met with quizzical looks in terms of its storyline. This is why I chose one of them to accompany me to the performance, for what I chose to call ‘An education in classical dance’.

Photo Credit: Andrew Ross

Photo Credit: Andrew Ross

Arriving at The Lowry, we received our tickets and headed to our seats, programmes in hand, and were met by the immense purple curtain, hiding the stage from prying eyes. As we took our seats, my accomplice made her first confession of the night; ‘‘So many different people are here, I thought it would just be little girls and elderly couples’’. In fact, she couldn’t be more wrong, within the audience was a vast mix of people of all ages, genders and – I can only assume – experiences with dance. The music started up, and the ballet began, the audience shushed into silence by the captivating orchestra. The first of a trilogy acts begins by telling the setting to the story, the engaged couple Franz and Swanhilda are humorously pushed apart by what –unknown to them- is a very beautiful doll, Coppélia. Which ends up has caused quite a stir in their quiet little village, resulting in both Franz and Swanhilda breaking into Dr Coppelius’ workshop to visit the ‘beautiful girl’ that is located within…

20 Years on: Posters from Birmingham Royal Ballet’s first performance of Coppélia  in March 1995, and the current performances, March 2015.

20 Years on: Poster from Birmingham Royal Ballet’s first performance of Coppélia
in March 1995.

20 Years on: Posters from Birmingham Royal Ballet’s first performance of Coppélia  in March 1995, and the current performances, March 2015.

20 Years on: Poster from Birmingham Royal Ballet’s current performances, March 2015.

Upon interviewing my friend after act two (which is my personal favourite section of the piece), I asked her if the performance was as she expected; ‘‘ To be honest I didn’t expect to understand any of it, but just watching it now I can tell exactly what is going on onstage, without the need to read up on the story afterwards’’. As someone who has seen many dance pieces in the past (and plan to see many more in the future!) I understand that people can sometimes think they will struggle understanding the dancers without words, but with Birmingham Royal Ballet this is never an issue. This company in particular go out of their way to ensure their audience understand the story, and aren’t left behind during this performance – they even go to the lengths of offering a child-friendly shorter and fully explanatory version of this ballet, allowing children from the ages of 3-7 full access to a beautiful art form they can fully enjoy. ‘Coppélia’ is a must-see classical ballet that, entering its 20th year with the company, will never get old, it’s dazzlingly beautiful costumes, extremely detailed set and perfect comedic timing have the whole audience giggling in their seats. When the curtains close, the whole audience want more.

‘Coppélia’ is at the Lowry for two more performances, to book your ticket for this afternoon or this evening >>> click here

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