In Boston Ballet’s ‘Coppélia,’ dancers make tricky footwork look easy

Misa Kuranaga and Boyko Dossev in George Balanchine's Coppélia
Misa Kuranaga and Boyko Dossev in George Balanchine’s “Coppélia.”

Following a spectacular penultimate production of “Chroma,” Boston Ballet closes a superb 2012-13 season with the classic George Balanchine piece “Coppélia.” The ballet, which only made its Boston debut in 2010, is performed by Mikko Nissinen’s dancers with admirable ease and familiarity.

“Coppélia” tells the story of a playful prank gone awry, leaving a man in heartache. Lovable and gullible Franz (Joseph Gatti) becomes infatuated with Coppélia, a life-sized doll created by town inventor Dr. Coppélius. The cast-aside object of his desire, the crafty Swanhilde (Kathleen Breen Combes,) then puts on Coppélia’s clothing and tricks the lovestruck young doctor into believing that a magic spell has brought his beloved doll to life. Meanwhile, Franz is too addled by both love and drink to realize what is happening.

It is a delight to watch Breen Combes dance. She possesses a natural proclivity for storytelling through dance, as is evident in the spunky, playful way she brings Swanhilde/Coppélia to life. This talent was first brought to the stage in her breakout role as one of the stepsisters in “Cinderella” (2008). Her energy is contagious. Every dancer brings 100 percent to the stage — from the rickety walk of Dr. Coppélius (Robert Kretz) to the mechanical movements of the other dolls in his attic. Not one performer misses a beat — and this includes the Boston Ballet students who feature in Act II — despite the considerable theatrics and tricky footwork this production demands.

This great ballet for children and adults alike — the storyline is easy to follow and the ballet is marked by a fair bit of humor — is sure to make it a Boston Ballet repertory favorite for years to come.


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