We don't usually go to the ballet for a giggle, but English National Ballet's Coppelia uses skilled performance and production to intentionally humorous effect. With brightly-coloured costumes and sets, great music and even better dancers, this is a ballet that's as ideal for dance-lovers as it is for newcomers (and anyone who thinks that ballet is elitist and impossible to follow).
Set to a score by Leo Delibes, the ballet tells the story of the lifelike doll, Coppelia, created by Dr Coppelius. Believing the doll is a real person, local girl Swanhilda sets out to seek her friendship, while Swanhilda's boyfriend Franz declares his love for Coppelia. As you might imagine, chaos ensues, but so too does lots of very high-quality acting and dancing.
In the leading roles, Shiori Kase and Yonah Acosta excel. Kase's technique is sublime — her balances are effortlessly held and she jumps with beautiful lightness and elevation. Acosta similarly impresses with a range of pirouetting and leaping tricks. The corps de ballet impress as well, particularly with their absolutely flawless Act I Mazurka.
Best of all, the whole cast play their roles with incredible conviction. When Swanhilda sees her beau misbehaving, she crosses her arms and pouts in a way that perfectly demonstrates her anger. (He stands behind with an equally perfect 'oops, I should have been more discreet' expression). It is this level of detail — both in the ballet's drama and other areas, particularly design — that makes Coppelia a real treat to watch.
So if you've ever wondered what would happen if you declared your love for a doll and your partner found out, this ballet is for you. And if you've never wondered such a crazy notion, well, this ballet is for you anyway.
Coppelia is on at the London Coliseum until Sunday 27 July. Londonist received a complimentary ticket to review the show.