Wednesday, December 13, 2017


Julius Szacsvay (Franz) - Tessa Karle -Swanhilda(masquerading as Coppelia the doll)  - Jessica Tonkin (Dr. Coppelius)

Photo: Greg Primmer

Music by Leo Delibes
Original Choreography by Marius Petipa and Enrico Cecchetti
Reproduced by Jackie Hallahan
Designed by Thompson Quan Wing
Presented by Dance Development Centre
Gungahlin College Community Theatre 5th and 6th December, 2017

Reviewed by Bill Stephens

Having directed a full production of “Coppelia” for the Canberra Youth Ballet and the Canberra Youth Orchestra many years ago in the Canberra Theatre, it was a no-brainer that when the Dance Development Centre announced that it had included a modified version of this ballet in its 2017 end- of- year program, the opportunity to renew acquaintance with this ballet would prove irresistible.

For her version of "Coppelia", which comprised the first half of the program, Jackie Hallahan, worked with the original Petipa and Cecchetti choreography, cleverly compressing the full-evening ballet into three short scenes, neatly retaining the important dances, and enough of the storyline, for the ballet to make sense.

In the first scene the audience was introduced to Swanhilda  (Tessa Karle)  and her friends,(Jade Allen, Amelie Coleman, Charlotte Fisk, and Lauren Morfoot). They also met Dr Coppelius, (Jessica Tonkin) who, wisely, relied on the choreography for her characterisation.

The highlight of this scene was a lovely pas de deux, which was superbly danced by 16 year- old Tessa Karle as Swanhilda, and guest artist, Julius Szacsvay as Franz. Szacsvay, who teaches in the Sydney studios of DDC, stepped in at short notice when an injury forced the original Franz to withdraw. Szacsvay, who’s danced professionally with the Australian Ballet and Ballet Basel, proved an attentive, accomplished partner, who danced his solos with winning élan.

At the end of this scene, attracted by the pretty “Coppelia" doll in the window, Swanhilda and her friends decide to break into Dr Coppelius’ toy shop in search of his masterpiece, the doll, Coppelia ( Georgette Wood) .

The second scene takes place inside the toyshop where the girls discover several mechanical dolls, a Balinese doll (Gwynneth Wise), a Spanish doll  (Isobelle France) , a Scottish doll (Madeleine Wells) and a Rag doll (Stephanie Robertson), as well as Dr. Coppelius’s prize Coppelia doll. While her girl-friends amuse themselves setting off the various dolls, Coppelia decides to surprise her friends by swapping clothes with the doll and pretending to be Swanilda.

Dr Coppelius returns unexpectedly, and, trapped in her disguise, Swanhilda convinces him that his Coppelia doll has come to life. He discovers her deception, and Swanhilda and her friends escape, leaving Dr. Coppelius heart-broken.

The final scene is a wedding scene, which commences with the triumphal wedding procession for Swanhilda and Franz. Beautifully staged, this scene took advantage of the opportunities for junior members to take part in the pretty ensemble dances, all of which were meticulously rehearsed and confidently danced.

Again the grand pas de deux, impeccably performed by Tessa Karle and Julius Szacsvay, proved the highlight.  Karle shows remarkable promise for one so young. Besides possessing a beautifully honed classical technique, she has the remarkable ability to draw your eyes to her, even when dancing anonymously in an ensemble, as experienced later in the program. 

A stylish, versatile setting, designed by Thompson Quan Wing, together with appropriately pretty costumes, and an excellent recording of the lovely Delibes music, added professional gloss to a charming production, which proved a delightful showcase for DDC’s current crop of immaculately groomed dancers.

The second half of the program consisted of three short ensemble works, each of which confirmed the excellent impression made by “Coppelia”.

"A Tribute to West Side Story"

Photo: Greg Primmer

Renee Hallahan drew inspiration from a suite of dances from Leonard Bernstein’s “West Side Story” to create an exhilarating short work for the full-time students, entitled, “A Tribute to West Side Story”.  Commencing in pretty frocks, and then incorporating a lightning quick costume change into jeans and tops, the work was joyously performed by the dancers who revelled in the opportunity to display their impeccable classical dance techniques in this cleverly conceived contemporary work.

"The Reapers Dance"

Photo: Greg Primmer

Staying with Delibes, Jackie Hallahan and Tara Chapman devised a lovely work for the part-time students, entitled “The Reapers Dance”. Performed in elegant mauve costumes, “The Reapers Dance” was prettily performed by the young dancers, who included two young men, who impressed with their elegant demeanour.

"Vertical Flight"

Photo: Greg Primmer 

The climax of the program was an exciting work created by Paul Knobloch to the driving music of Ezio Bosso and the Ezio Bosso Trio.  Entitled “Vertical Flight”, and performed by the full-time students, “Vertical Flight” was performed in black unitards which featured a wide red stripe on each side.  Knobloch made ingenious use of these stripes to create and resolve a succession of constantly changing images. Dazzlingly executed by the young dancers, this work would do a professional dance company proud, and proved a stunning finale for an evening of impressive dance.