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.
Saturday was a rehearsal whirlwind, with the day beginning at nine with the wedding pas from Act III of Coppélia. We used a new recording, which was about five times faster than the old one. I did one attitude promenade about fifty times. Start the day off with a bang!
Got my tote bag of shoes/leg warmers, my water bottle, and my tutu. Ready for rehearsal!
I like the Act III classical work. Swanhilda is so sassy in Act II and so emotional (angry/frustrated/happy) in Act I. Doing the wedding pas feels like drifting in a dream world. She is so gently happy to be with her rather flighty beau. She finally demonstrates and maintains a sensitivity and delicacy that comes and goes in the other acts.
She still gets her say, though — the variation is extremely playful, and that famous music provides the power that makes her so down-to-earth. Above all, she is just happy like one in a dream — happy to be with Franz, happy to be with her friends, and happy to be dancing. As one of the choreographers put it, “Franz is addicted to the bottle. You’re addicted to dancing.” More on Swanhilda’s obsession with dance later!
I lost my contact today during rehearsal. We were learning part of the Act II scene when Swanhilda pretends to be the Coppélia doll and generally wrecks havoc with Dr. Coppélius. Blink, blink, blinkblinkblinkblinkblink, goes the choreography, so blinkblinkblink I go. Then I try not to move my eyes at all afterwards, at least until Dr. Coppélius turns to consult his book of spells.
As I tried to stare as innocently as possible straight ahead, my eyes grew drier, drier. Then my contact fell out, and I had to stop the doll imitations to pop it back in. Besides losing my contacts, Coppélia rehearsals are going smoothly. I am having the time of my life with all the acting. My feet, however, have told me I am not to wear anything but Danskos or tennis shoes. The weather is beautiful outside, so you end up with an odd outfit like this:
Oh well. Whatever keeps my feet happy! They aren’t too bad right now.
I spend so much time talking about the Dance Department, I feel like I’m giving the other areas of the JCFA the cold shoulder. To remedy this — the Department of Theater.
The two most memorable Butler Theater shows I’ve seen are The Cherry Orchard (2010) and Phaedra (2008). I think Phaedra stands out because the story is fairly intense and the entire production played out on a large, wide staircase that served as the stage. I remember The Cherry Orchard production so well because we discussed the play in my Global and Historical Studies class. I read the play for the class, and I wrote a review of the Theater Department’s production.
What impresses me the most about the Theater Department is their willingness to engage more obscure works. I know they did The Photographer a few years before I began at Butler (you can see snippets here). One of the dance professors choreographed for the show, and I think some of the dance students were involved. I love the music for The Photographer… I would have gone in a heartbeat. This music is in my Favorites on Youtube:
I also love the Theater Department’s sets. Those I’ve seen have been gorgeous. If I remember correctly, the Cherry Orchard stage had white flower petals coming from its sides.
The Cherry Orchard, Butler Theater 2010
I know this post hasn’t been extremely organized, but if you want to learn more about Butler’s Department of Theater, just browse through the links below!
Collegian article about visiting artist — and the source of the incessant drumming coming from their third floor Lilly classroom…
Faculty and Staff
How to Apply