By Steve and Jayne Weatherbe
Special to Monday Magazine
Ballet Etoile, Victoria’s feisty little professional ballet company, staged a tiny masterpiece of comedy highlighted by several artistic tours de force. Sadly, few came to see Coppelia at the Dave Dunnett Theatre at Oak Bay High and one performance was cancelled.
As for those of us who did come, we saw a fine ensemble piece with very competent contributions from girls from several local dance schools, impressive solos from one or two of the youngsters and the usual brilliance from Amalia Schelhorn, a former National Ballet member and teacher at several schools in Victoria, in a supporting role.
David Roland also did a fine comic turn in the key role of Dr. Coppelius, a dotty rather than a mad scientist who builds life-sized wind-up figures that sit, mostly immobile, in his shop.
Ian Szkolak playing Franz, the male lead, falls for one comely automaton whom he takes for Coppelius’s daughter, demonstrating focused physicality, grace and bashful charm as he attempts to win the heart of the inanimate girl, ending up drugged and trapped by the malicious doctor instead.
But Franz is betrothed to the lovely village lass, Swanhilda, who dramatically spurns him for chasing Coppelia, then sneaks into Dr. Coppelius’s workshop to discover the truth about his “daughter,” leading a trio of village girls.
It is Ashley Evans as Swanhilda who makes this ballet such a triumph. Ms. Evans is a wonderfully limber, graceful and expressive dancer, but she is much more. She is the choreographer and director of this piece, founder of Ballet Etoile, and, rumour has it, she also sews some of the costumes. Her face is wonderfully expressive too, and she hams it up hilariously with Roland’s Dr. Coppelius in his workshop, where she impersonates his prize doll in order to rescue Franz.
Everyone involved should be proud and every ballet fan who missed it should resolve to make Ballet Etoile’s next show July 29 and 30 at Butchart Gardens.