Sunday, October 23, 2011


Miki Kawamura as Swanhilda. Photo provided
By Nancy Condit

Oklahoma City Ballet dancers Miki Kawamura and Yui  Sato, and artistic director Robert Mills in a major character role led the 21 member company in a well performed, full evening of a classic comedy ballet last night at the Civic Center Music Hall.  The last performance is today at 2 p.m. at the Civic Center, with a doll parade of children's favorite dolls at 1:30 p.m.

One of the true pleasures and measures of the ballet's success was the laughter of children when Doctor Coppelius, Mills, chased Swanhilda, Kawamura, and her friends around his laboratory after drugging Franz, Sato.  The miming gestures of what each character wanted and the huge creeping steps of Doctor Coppelius after Swanhilda's huge steps toward the closet where the doll Coppelia was kept were  very effective in this last major ballet of the romantic period.

The familiar score is by Leo Delibes, and the original choreography and libretto are by Arthur Saint-Leon, with additional choreography by artistic director Robert Mills and ballet master Jacob Sparso.  The ballet is based on two stories by E. T. A. Hoffman, Der Sandmann (The Sandman), and Die Puppe (The Doll).  Hoffman also wrote The Nutcracker, the story of a nutcracker that came to life, and the next ballet that OKC Ballet will present.  The lovely costumes and scenery were courtesy of the Eugene Ballet Company of Eugene, Oregon.  Lighting was by Dale Hall.

Kawamura, cast in the role of a young woman, danced well, with quick and precise footwork.  Sato, in his first role with the company, hung in the air in a leap at the end of act one.  His solos were generally good.  Kawamura and Sato partnered excellently, especially in the third act when the groom lifted the bride onto his shoulder.

Swanhilda's friends delicacy was particularly apparent when Mills, clad in old fashioned very baggy knee britches, and wearing a tightly curled grey wig, clunkily chased them around and out of his laboratory. The friends were danced by Sarah Chun, Stephanie Foraker-Pitts, Amanda Herd, and Callye McCollum. They performed beautifully throughout the ballet. Grace Medaugh as Dawn and Darli Iakovleva as Prayer danced well in small roles in the grand finale.

The company, with eight new members, danced extremely well.  The czardas, a Hungarian folk dance, was particularly enjoyable. The women were fluid, more than capable, and lovely.  The men are much improved, with greater height, and overall danced well.

Coppelia as presented last night was a grand ballet, with village scenes and dances to attract young men and women to each other, an act in a mad scientist's laboratory where the dolls come alive, and a grand finale third act wedding scene filled with dancing and a cast supplemented by members from the Oklahoma City dance community, and completed with young women holding aloft hoops of flowers while white and red rose petals fill the air around the bride, groom and celebrants.

c. by Nancy Condit

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