Léo Delibes’ ballet Coppélia of 1870 tells of a boy (Franz) in love with a doll (Coppélia), while a girl (Swanilda) is in love with him and an inventor (Dr Coppelius) tries to bring the doll to life. Needless to say it is a pretty flimsy plot, but by the same token its looseness enables the piece to be explored in many different ways.
In fact, to anyone who has ever seen the work the first thing to spring to mind may be the mass of clockwork dolls dancing in Act 2. In the Moscow Stanislavsky Ballet’s first ever visit to the London Coliseum, however, this aspect is kept relatively low key so that the mind can concentrate on the characters of the three main protagonists as they dance. The corps de ballet is still given plenty of opportunities to shine in Acts 1 and 3, however, and while their steps appear both innovative and playful, the precision that underlies them is only the result of years of training and working together.
Last year Sergei Polunin hit the headlines with a dramatic exit from the Royal Ballet, but as Franz the 23-year old reveals the real reasons why he should merit our attention by providing the ultimate demonstration in how to combine precision with flair. As Swanilda, there is genuine and unique expression in Kristina Shapran’s movements, but she also reveals impeccable formal technique. Anton Domashev makes Dr Coppelius feel more distinguished than in some productions, and his gestures and footwork help us to feel some sympathy for him as he watches his dreams crumble to dust, even though strictly he is the villain of the piece.
All of the dancers throw heart and soul into their performances, and although they are really pushing the boundaries, their sheer skill enables them to look confident and comfortable throughout. If only we knew just how much goes behind each of these apparently effortless performances.
Until 14 July at the London Coliseum, Saint Martin’s Lane, Charing Cross, WC2N 4ES with start times of 14.00 and 19.30. Casts vary over the run. For further details and tickets (£10-£65) visit the Coliseum website.
Londonist received a complimentary ticket and programme from Borkowski Arts and Ents.
Photo: Sergei Polunin and Kristina Shapran in Roland Petit’s production of Coppélia, © Tristram Kenton.