When I learned I would dance the role of Swanhilda in the Butler Ballet’s upcoming production of Coppélia, one of the first things I did (after freaking out and then getting my hands to stop shaking) was to look up the meaning of Swanhilda’s name.
Alternate spellings are “Swanilda” or “Swanhilde,” but the cast list released to us had “Swanhilda,” so Swanhilda I am! Battle Swan.
There’s a balancing act here. I think Swanhilda can easily slip into all battle and no swan: She is sassy and wholly forthcoming, wrecking havoc in Dr. Coppélius’ toyshop, destroying his dream of a daughter-doll come to life.
I have to remember the small moments. I am shy but give in gratefully when Franz offers me a stalk of wheat; I look at Dr. Coppélius after I break the real Coppélia doll, accepting responsibility for my action, though maintaining its necessity with a look toward my confused fiancé; I bubble over with excitement upon encountering 1. dance 2. my friends 3. flowers.
Swanhilda likes to cause mischief, but I hope the impulse comes from frustration with Franz’ infatuation with Coppélia and a gleeful, prankster nature rather than from real hatred. I have no idea whether I’m succeeding in avoiding the overtly malicious. Swanhilda is a touch supercilious, perhaps, but only because she is young and in love and brimming over the edges with life.
Right, I sincerely hope this is an accurate assessment of Swanhilda’s character. Though I wouldn’t be surprised if someone wanted to contest the validity of the above, I am nonetheless having the time of my life.
Okay, now buy your tickets for Coppélia.