There has not been a tale with as much teenage angst and drama as “Romeo and Juliet” until Leo Delibes’ “Coppelia,” which was performed by Ballet Theatre San Luis Obipso Sunday night at the Christopher Cohan Center.
A part of American Dance San Luis Obispo, Ballet Theatre San Luis Obispo was created in 2006 by artistic director and ballet teacher Theresa Slobodnik after the Gilbert Reed Ballet of San Luis Obispo was closed in 2003. Slobodnik created the company so that dancers of all ages could perform on stage in front of a large audience.
“I saw a documentary that featured a ballet company whose bread and butter was ‘Coppelia,’” said Slobodnik. “I loved the music and realized that I knew most of the variations and had the dancers to do it.”
The ballet, which debuted in 1870 and is considered the last ballet of the Romantic Era, tells the story of Franz and Swanilda. They are about to get married in a group wedding, hosted by a lord who promises the brides handsome dowries. Swanilda, however, sees Franz dancing with some village girls and blowing a kiss to Coppelia, the “daughter” of scientist Dr. Coppelius. Swanilda then shakes a stalk of wheat, she does not hear the sound that signifies their marriage will be prosperous.
Rebuked, Franz decides to pursue Coppelia and gets a ladder in order to break into Coppelius’ house while he is away and woo Coppelia. While Franz fetches the ladder, Swanilda and her friends also break into Coppelius’ house using the key that Coppelius dropped earlier. Inside, they find many more of Coppelius’ dolls and discover that Coppelia herself is really a doll.
After Coppelius returns and chases the girls out, Swanilda hides and dresses up as Coppelia. Soon after, Franz breaks into the house and Coppelius decides to use his soul in order to bring Coppelia to life. Coppelius gets Franz drunk as Swanilda watches and realizes that Coppelius intends to take Franz’s life.
When Coppelius takes Coppelia, Swanilda pretends to becomes animated and starts to wreak havoc in the work room in order to stall Coppelius and wake Franz in time. When Franz finally wakes up, Swanilda reveals herself to Coppelius and brings out the real Coppelia to show Franz. The couple escapes. At their wedding the next day, Coppelius objects to Franz and Swanilda receiving their dowry from the lord since Swanilda did so much damage to his property. To appease Coppelius, the lord also gives Coppelius a dowry and the celebrations continue.
Slobodnik started conceptualizing the ballet in November and the dancers began to train in January. Most of the cast was made up of Slobodnik’s students and a few guest dancers.
“It was a lot of hard work, but it was a lot of fun as well,” said Sheridan Torgerson, 17, who played Swanilda and is a senior at San Luis Obispo High School.
Blair London, the assistant director of Ballet Theatre San Luis Obispo and a material engineering professor at Cal Poly, played Coppelius in the production.
“I’ve been involved in ballet since college and grad school,” London said. “My whole family dances.”