By Jackie Makley, freelance writer
June 2003


One sensed the excitement of family members and friends amongst the audience at the McCullough auditorium at the Saturday matinee on June 14. Deborah Rayburn the artistic director of the Festival Ballet produces ballets combining professional dancers along with students from her Woodlands Dance Academy. This year two performances of the ballet classic, "Coppelia" were re-staged for this day by Deborah and Barbara Le Gault. It was based on the original choreography by Arthur Saint Leon and Marius Petipa. The Paris Opera Ballet first presented "Coppelia" on May 25 1870 at the Imperial De Opera in Paris. Leo Delibes wrote the melodic, thematic and colorful music.

Coppelia is a magical story set in Eastern Europe about two lovers and jealousy concerning a life-like doll. The doll that Doctor Coppelius has created is so beautiful that the young man, Franz canít help but flirt with it. Itís on the front porch and he thinks itís alive. In the first act Swanilda (the jealous lover) tests Franzís devotion through a traditional custom by shaking an ear of wheat. She is distracted from her disappointment with Franz when the corps de ballet dances a mazurka. Kathryn Winn Ellison, a professional dancer, performed the solo as "The Mazurka Girl." She danced with sinewy grace and musicality.

Kerry Mullagan as Swanilda danced her role with a playful, sassy charm expressing well the range of emotion that the role demands. Norbert Nirewicz danced Franz with delightful impishness. He has remarkable leaps and turns and finished each of his solos perfectly on time with the music. Barbara LeGault who is a small person not only performed the mime role of Dr. Coppelius with fine humor but exhibited surprising strength. She dragged Franz, who was drugged, into a chair and the dolls back to their places after their frenzied dances.

The doll Coppelia never got wound up so we didnít see her dance, but she held very still as she sat on the porch. The dolls of different nationalities were great fun in act two. Tonya Belosudstev danced the Chinese doll, Ashley Cuesta, the Spanish, Taylor Greenwade, the Scottish, Summar Williams, the Arabian and Per Hoven, the Nutcracker doll. They did their respective national dance styles with the appropriate mechanical jerkiness. In act three Kathryn Winn Ellison danced the role of "Dawn" with lightness and a lyrical style. Ashley Cuesta danced "Prayer" holding highly extended arabesques. I noticed in the program that she was to dance "Dance of the Hours" in the corps immediately after her solo in "Prayer." Somehow, she did it! That was the fastest quick change I have ever seen.

Kerry and Norbert danced a gracious wedding pas de deux that highlighted the end of act three. One section of their dance together was reminiscent of the "Rose Adagio" from "Sleeping Beauty" with promenades and balances. In between their solos, the first group of younger children named "The Village Children" began to make their appearances. Swanilda and Franz each sparkled in their solo variations following them. The next group of little ones was called "Golden Sunshine." "The Flower Children" were the last group of youngsters before the exciting finale. The Moms and Dads oohed and aahed as their children took their bows.

Itís wonderful for the young people to have a chance to dance in a production with professionals. They can see the possibility of mastery. The Festival Ballet will be performing "The Nutcracker" at Christmastime. For more information call 979-292-0117.