Sunday, January 09, 2000

Comedic ballet 'Coppelia' a first for CCM dancers

Enquirer contributor

        Keep it light. That was the goal of the Dance Division at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music during the selection of its first-ever full-length ballet.

        “For the gala celebration surrounding the opening of the CCM Village (this school year), the faculty and I decided to present a celebrating event, something fun and uplifting and not so serious,” says Carol N. Iwasaki, head of the Dance Division.

        They chose Coppelia, ballet's great comedy. It begins a three-performance run on Friday.

        The occasion marks a number of other firsts, including the first performance presented by the dance ensemble in Corbett Auditorium, which seats 740. Previous performances have been done in the smaller, 375-seat Patricia Corbett Theater.

        “There may have been full-lengths done when Cincinnati Ballet was still connected to the university program (in the 1960s), but in my memory there's never been one,” Ms. Iwasaki says.

        “We've never had the funds to do a full-length until now. With funds provided by the Corbett-McLain Distinguished Chair (announced last year) doing one has been a priority.”

        The ballet's story takes place in a world somewhere between fantasy and reality, where villagers perform spirited folk czardas and mazurkas.

        The main characters are Swanilda and Franz, as featured lovers, and Dr. Coppelius, the village dollmaker.

        No one's happier to be doing a full-length than Kermit Allen, who dances Franz.

        “Each rehearsal I find something new in Coppelia,” Mr. Allen says. With graduation nearing at the end of summer, he says he's ready to jump into professional dance and more story ballets.

        “I've done short pieces and recitals, but they don't offer the opportunity to develop a character,” he says.

        Helping him make this transition is CCM's newest faculty member, Michael Tevlin. “There's a technique in finishing that I really need help with to make the transition to the professional level. He's really helping me with that,” Mr. Allen says.

        Besides driving students, the ballet affords Mr. Tevlin, an assistant professor, the opportunity to introduce his character-dancing abilities locally as he suits up in the role of Dr. Coppelius.

        A total CCM collaboration, the Repertory Orchestra is handling music — a Leo Delibes score — and the theater design department the production. Responsible for choreography is associate professor Yi-Qi Cheng. The Beijing native is sticking to a traditional interpretation based on Arthur Saint-Leon's original 1870 choreography.

        the dance division went outside to fill male roles. Former Cincinnati Ballet dancer Tim Snyder dances Franz to Sara Steinmetz's Swanilda in one performance. Other men have been invited from Michigan's Interlochen Arts Academy to fill out the cast.

        Mr. Allen partners Meghan Brennan, in his favored part of any big ballet.

        “Grand pas de deux represents the perfect relationship — a man and a woman working together. Then they get to show off individual talents when they dance their solo variations,” he says.

        • What: Coppelia, University of Cincinnati-Conservatory of Music Dance Division

        • When: 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday;2:30 p.m. next Sunday. • Where: Corbett Auditorium

        • Tickets: $10, $5 non-UC students, free to UC students; CCM box office, 556-4183.


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