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Flash Review 2, 10-5: "Coppelia" Clarity
PNB's Tobiason Reprises Signature Role

By Leland Windreich
Copyright 2000 Leland Windreich

SEATTLE -- Kent Stowell's enchanting and durable production of Arthur Saint-Leon's "Coppelia" opened Pacific Northwest Ballet's new season September 28 at the Seattle Opera House. Julie Tobiason, long a favorite in the role of Swanilda, has acquired a sophistication in her portrayal of the feisty girl who competes with a mechanical doll for the affections of her village boyfriend. One of PNB's most musical dancers, the petite Tobiason has acquired a style that distinguishes her from her long-limbed colleagues. Her dancing has the clarity of fine chamber music.

The tall Belgian Olivier Wevers, who has been partnering Tobiason frequently over the past two years, portrays Franz as a bumpkin and effectively conveys a peasant's lack of discernment. He's a perfect foil for Tobiason's quick wit, and they are divinely matched. Only in Act III is Wevers able to show his elegant classical line and superb technique in the male variation of the pas de deux. Tobiason, with a number and variety of solos in each act, has every opportunity to display the versatility of her dancing craft.

Kaori Nakamura took over the role of Swanilda on September 29. Small, compact and fleet, she has a more pronounced thrust in her dancing and a more flexible back. Thomas Lund of the Royal Danish Ballet, appearing with PNB as a guest for this production, portrayed Franz as an affable soul and attentive lover. A superb technician, Lund was not afforded a particularly challenging vehicle for his natural gifts and accomplishments, but he brought to the role an impeccable Danish skill for characterization.

Stowell's production is brisk and breezy. He has transferred the Czardas to the last act, which brings vitality and contrast to the suite of classical solos that follow. PNB's dancers perform the folk ensembles with contagious joy.

Tobiason and Wevers reprise the lead roles tonight and Saturday night; Nakamura dances opposite Wevers tomorrow night.


Leland Windreich is a dance critic and historian living in Vancouver, British Columbia, in Canada. He has written extensively on dance subjects for various American, Canadian and British periodicals since 1975. He is the author of two books: "Dance Encounters" (1998), and "June Roper: Ballet Starmaker" (1999), and editor of "Dancing for De Basil: Letters to her Parents from Rosemary Deveson, 1938-1940" (1996). All books are published in Toronto by Dance Collection Danse.

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