Scottish Rite Cathedral Theater, Indianapolis School of Ballet with guest artists, May 21-22.
Coppelia, the initiator of action, in reality is a lifeless doll. Coppelia the ballet, on the other hand, is a great comic ballet brought realistically to life by the delightfully animated dancers performing in the Indianapolis School of Ballet production. Based on E.T.A. Hoffmann's story "The Sandman," Coppelia (1870) predates The Nutcracker (1890) by 20 years with Tchaikovsky crediting Leo Delibes as his inspiration, little knowing his use of another Hoffmann story would become an American Christmas holiday craze.
Set in a charmingly depicted Austro-Hungarian village in Galicia, Coppelia equally deserves mass audience attention. At the center are three competing plot lines: Dr. Coppelius' desire to "animate" his mechanical doll, Swanhilda's desire to marry her beloved Franz, Franz's desire to capture the attention of the alluring Coppelia (while still desiring the attention of Swanhilda). It's Keystone Cops craziness carried out with meticulous mime and technical skills for choreography based not only on tricky ballet variations but also on folkloric dances, including the mazurka, czardas, bolero and jig — and on keeping perfectly still in a not so comfortable pose for a very long time.
The entire cast, from "petite villagers" to seasoned professionals, works together to bring the story to a happy ending. Victoria Lyras' choreography perfectly molds itself into Delibes' music, enhanced by Loukia Finale's exquisite costumes and James Leitner's lighting. It's in executing the minute details and nuances of body language, and their facial expressions and relationships to each other, along with technical clarity, that the dancers make this community celebration of youthful love sparkle. Bravo. Space doesn't allow naming all, but mention must be made of the growing number of young boy dancers. Nice.