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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, August 28, 2005

Ballet Hawaii captures magic, drama of 'Coppelia'

By Carol Egan
Special to The Advertiser

Hawai'i's Amanda Schull, of the San Francisco Ballet, danced the dual role of Swanilda and Coppelia.

RICHARD AMBO | The Honolulu Advertiser


Yes, Virginia, miracles can still happen! Witness the production of "Coppelia" at the Blaisdell Concert Hall. Put together in a mere three weeks and using borrowed sets and costumes from a California company, Ballet Hawaii did itself proud with a very credible and engaging performance of a much-beloved classic.

As the culmination of its summer workshop, Ballet Hawaii brought together the best of its students, joined by a few outstanding dancers from the Mainland, to present "Coppelia" on Aug. 20 and 21. (I saw the Aug. 20 performance.)

Originally choreographed by Arthur Saint-Leon for the Paris Opera Ballet and premiered in 1870, "Coppelia," a ballet in three acts set to music of Leo Delibes, derives its story from E.T.A. Hoffmann's tale, "Der Sandmann."

In brief, it tells of an old doll-maker, Dr. Coppelius (John Selya) whose greatest desire is to create a doll with a soul. Swanilda (Amanda Schull), a young girl, is in love with Franz (Joan Boada). But he has fallen in love with the doll, Coppelia, who he thinks is alive. Eventually he recognizes that she is a doll and returns to Swanilda.

On this occasion, Ballet Hawaii brought the distinguished Cuban teacher, Magaly Suarez, here as choreographer.

Boada, seen last fall in Ballet Hawaii's "Nutcracker" production on Maui, continues to grow as a dancer, adding to his wealth of virtuoso and dramatic abilities. His beautifully articulated positions, leaps and turns were proof once again of the awesome talent emerging from Cuba and South America.

Dancing opposite Boada was Hawai'i's own Schull. Along with Boada, she is now a member of the San Francisco Ballet, where the discipline and rigor are obviously having their effect. Perfectly cast in the dual role of Swanilda/Coppelia, she had all the innocence and tempestuousness of the young girl while portraying the mechanical doll with conviction.

Appearing as the mischievous Dr. Coppelius (a character also found in Offenbach's opera "The Tales of Hoffmann") was Selya, currently starring on Broadway in "Movin' Out," the Billy Joel/Twyla Tharp musical that earned him a Tony nomination for best actor in a musical. From his appearance as Dr. Coppelius, one can see why. Every mimed gesture, body language and stance was as clear as crystal.

Much of the credit for the entire ensemble must go to the teachers, Pamela Taylor-Tongg, Maria Vegh, Michael Vernon, and Magaly Suarez. Both Vegh and Vernon, in minor character roles, sat proudly upstage watching the fine dancing unfolding onstage.

Emerging talent to keep an eye on includes Kelsea Auld, a 14-year-old with incredible presence and considerable technique, Alisa Suderman and Krista Ettlinger. The Honolulu Symphony, under Joan Landry's baton, did the score justice.

We look forward to seeing further productions by Ballet Hawaii, besides their annual "Nutcracker."