New Cleveland Ballet making its own magic with fresh production of 'Coppelia' (preview)
Gallery: New Cleveland Ballet comes into its own with "Coppelia"
CLEVELAND, Ohio - The dancing isn't all that's choreographed at the new and rising Cleveland Ballet. No, the company itself also is following well-laid plans.
In mounting its own version of the classic "Coppelia," the developing troupe is taking what is arguably the perfect next step, declaring its independence and proving that it, like the ballet's main character, is capable of making its own magic.
Ditto the company's motivations. While endurance and prosperity are naturally long-term aims, at this point for Cleveland Ballet, much like the plot of "Coppelia," it's pretty much all about love. Love for the art form. Love for Northeast Ohio. Love for those who preceded them.
"I am not trying to improve upon the original," said artistic director Gladisa Guadalupe, referring to both the original "Coppelia" and the former Cleveland Ballet, of which she was a member, which closed in 2000.
"The new Cleveland Ballet has a new vision. We're not riding on coattails. We want to establish a new beginning, a new and different repertoire."
Indeed, Guadalupe and crew aren't taking cues from anyone on this, the second large-scale production in their inaugural season. Not even Arthur Saint-Leon, the 19th-century choreographer of "Coppelia," a story ballet nearly as popular as "The Nutcracker" and "Swan Lake."
Not that they're going it alone, either. Their guide, on this occasion, is Ramon Oller, the Spanish choreographer Guadalupe hired after witnessing his blend of modern dance and classical and neo-classical ballet in a fresh version of "Carmen."
"I just couldn't believe it," Guadalupe recalled of that production. "With each person, in terms of choreography, he took the best out of them."
With "Coppelia," Oller and Guadalupe are doing something similar: distilling the ballet's essence. Out of the lengthy original, the two have crafted a swift, 70-minute presentation that shifts focus away from the doll Coppelia (danced by Cleveland native Elena Cvetkovich) onto the human relationships she affects.
In their telling, performed by a 10-member core company and large cast of guests and children, the action hinges on the tension between fantasy and reality. Both Franz (Joffrey Ballet Concert Group member Nicholas Montero) and Dr. Coppelius (Oller) become infatuated with the ideal Coppelia represents, only to come to realize that true love only can be found with Swanilda (Cleveland native Lauren Stenroos).
The look of the production may stand out from the norm even more boldly. Where traditional versions of "Coppelia," such as those presented by the former Cleveland Ballet, employ lavish set pieces and period costumes, the new Cleveland Ballet's adopts a 1950s aesthetic and relies heavily on the lighting talent of Trad A Burns.
"You're not going to see millions of dollars in sets," Guadalupe said. "The stage has to be filled with artistry and technique. We don't want to compromise ourselves to anyone."
Standards-wise, the new Cleveland Ballet is indeed holding its ground. But the company also is realistic. Live music. A larger corps. Touring. A roomier home. These, to a group unwilling to take on debt, remain aspirations.
Still, they're hardly out of reach. With "Coppelia," Guadalupe said, the new Cleveland Ballet is moving closer to her vision.
As for those other elements, Guadalupe said, "We'll get there. We promise."