Go back to Flash Reviews
Flash Review 3: More,
Australians Not Yet Hot Enough in "Coppelia"
By Simone Clifford
Copyright 2000 Simone Clifford
-- The Australian Ballet's "Coppelia," staged by Peggy Van Praagh
and George Olgilvie after the 1870 Arthur Saint-Leon original as
revised by Marius Petipa and Enrico Cecchetti, is big in terms of
set and costume design, music and length. Leo Delibes's music is
extraordinary when one considers the period in which it was written.
The theatrics and structure, then quite revolutionary, were to form
the basis for the musical structure of our other much-loved ballet
classics. The theatrics of the music are deliberate, decisive, and
splashy. All this was present last night at the State Theatre of
the Victorian Arts Centre -- and yet, as hot these dancers are,
I found myself wanting more.
The audience always knows
at which point they are expected to be quiet, to watch and follow
the story; and when they are expected to make their presence felt
and applaud the performers. The musical punctuations and structuring
are important, as they provide the frame for the choreography to
propel itself. But this somehow left me uneasy. Does the choreography
allow the music too much latitude? I am uncertain and would need
another viewing to consider the structure of this version. But there
were times I found the choreography difficult, the dancers struggling
to interpret musical timings in unison. Long strands of beautiful
music were wasted by too much pantomime. As well, there were times
when the choreography was technically very difficult and we saw
the dancers hard-pushed to deliver their performance. But yet it
LOOKED gorgeous -- everything we expected and hoped to see visually
in a classic was presented to us flawlessly.
But what of the dance,
the dancers? What happened last night, what did we see? I saw youthfulness.
Why do I say this? I say this because the dancers performed the
work admirably, with a joy in their expression, to be on the stage
and to dance this work. The dancers in this company work so hard
for the ideal, to be the ideal, and to be their ideal vision of
the ideal. The overall impression is one of youth struggling with
itself, wrestling to perform the ideal version of what performance
in the balletic is, and in the meantime leaving us waiting and wishing
for that total surrender to the ballet, to the art.
When I interviewed him
recently, the AB's next artistic director, David McAllister, spoke
about these very things. (See Flash Interview,
9-27: David McAllister in the House.) I am thirsty to witness
the authority a dancer assumes on the stage once he or she totally
surrenders to the art. These dancers are simply beautiful but why
do they not trust themselves more? I could not sense their presence
in the substantial ways that I had felt them in the trilogy program,
the program before this one. (See Flash Review,
8-25: Pilgrimage in Search of a New Simplicity.) Aware that
this is a very hard-working company, I'm sure the artistic leaps
the dancers must make because of their far-reaching repertoire are
a lot to ask. But still, I must ask: Why do they not embrace that
magical blend of surrender and authority to their work? For we all
so want them to unfold the journey on the stage and allow us to
gaze with wonder at their beauty, their own point of view as artists.
I want to watch them with wonder the way I do when looking up to
the night sky, to see the dazzling array of twinkling stars that
flirt with my imagination.
We know these dancers
have earned their stripes, they've put in all the hard work, they've
got it all together. They look good, the staging is good, the live
orchestra sounds good. But... I want one of them to dare in new
ways, and then to see others follow. For this company of dancers
is hot but not hot enough in "Coppelia" -- yet! I think they could
be soooooo hot in their portrayal, that they could burn us with
their burning technique and talent together with a resolved approach
towards themselves. I can't wait for the floodgates to open. We
love everything about them, but we want more. Always more.
back to Flash Reviews