National Ballet of Cuba
October 12, 2001
If Giselle is a bench mark of interpretive style between the human and the spirit,
Coppelia is the signature note in happy bravura. Next to La Fille Mal Gardee, it provides the ballerina with happy challenges, the corps de ballet with a consistent energetic participation,
and some excellent character bits for male performers, particularly in the character of Dr. Coppelius. I have happy memories, admittedly hazy, of seeing Alexandra Danilova as Swanhilda, one of her most noted roles, and what style she infused into that village maiden when she was easily double plus the age of one of the more memorable balletic minxes in the classical repertoire.
The Ballet Nacional de Cuba camewith this durable romp. for its second visit to Zellerbach Hall I understand they had been promised an orchestra but did not get it and had to make do with a recording. It was an evening of connections for the next youngest Carreno, Joel,
was dancing Franz, an engaging young actor who might have been mistaken for a senior at Dartmouth, and the possessor of an extraordinarily handsome pair of well-shaped, slender legs.
Obviously the lifts he accomplished were never undertaken by the women who danced the role en traverstie at the Paris Opera at the tail end of the Second Empire.
His Swanhilda, equally winsome and quite articulate mimetically, was Lorna Feijoo, the sister of Lorena Feijoo, one of San Francisco Ballet's gifted principal dancers. Lorna is a trifle more slender version of Diana Adams with an elegant, high attitude and a la seconde which stops short of 6 o'clock. One is entranced with her fluidity and flexibility but it stays short of extremes.
Felix Rodriguez acquitted himself quite well as Doctor Coppelius with a little running walk, as if he was trying to keep pace with a rapid thought process, totally in time to the music. Rolando Sorabia, who cut such a swath in international competitions - Junior Gold Medalist in Jackson and a similar prize at Varna, danced only the Chinese doll in Act II.
Apart from the orchestral gaffe, the company suffers from the paucity of production supplies.
Given that factors some costumes looked more recital caliber than celebrated company in character. But when it came to interaction among company members, and the clarity of mime,
you marveled only at the zest and the very real sense of community the dancers conveyed. After
all, Swanhilda and Franz live in a village and they know everyone there.
In Act I, the wheat pas de deux possessed degrees of clarity missing from the old Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo production. When the shaft of wheat was shaken by Lorna, sometimes it was a
yes, some times a no. Danilova played it as though it was always a no. Feijoo's easy
virtuosity was always with the music and you had the sense she leaned into the role with a
gentle relish, while her mind was quite alive to the next move.
Franz received his potent mickey in Act II, the girls disappeared on the reappearance of Dr. Coppelius. The ensuing delusion regarding the humanization of Coppelia was simply splendid
with Feijoo required to dance almost non stop, adapting to a series of national pastiches. The
audience really entered into the story, with laughter or guffaws could be heard erupting at various moments and in unexpected locations in the audience. The false hopes and enchantment experienced by Dr. Coppelius encapsulated all old men delighted by some clever, sagacious young girl who knows how to play to their easy susceptibility.
In Act III, when the Burgomeister supplies a purse to the newly wed couple and Dr. Coppelius is also assuaged with a small sack with clinking coins, two young women accompanying the Burgomeister to the town square. I would swear they were coeds pressed willingly into costumes and service, and did they ever comport themselves like that. For all the costuming of fashionable women, social presence eluded them, or the period which seemed roughly equivalent to Jane Austen.
The solos of Dawn and Prayer seemed long on costuming and short on spirit. Yvonne
Chouteau's lyricism in Prayer has yet to be surpassed. All Dawn seemed to have was a golden circle behind her head. These were comparatively minor, but since they were solos and obviously designed both to lengthen the program and display prominent dancers at the Opera, there seemed little imagination engendered in their roles.
Let's hope when the Ballet Nacional dances in London they have an orchestra and bring Coppelia.