I can’t seem to make coherent statements about Coppélia except that it was a wonderful, terrifying, and amazing experience that I already miss. I never expected this time last year to think of myself as an emotional dancer, but somehow the story and the emotion of the character became the top priority in the course of these performances. Could this be artistic maturation I’m experiencing? I can only hope…
In lieu of a complete statement or story, here are some moments from Coppélia:
- Those times when you just nail the balances when they matter, and they take you by surprise? Yeah, I had a few of those. : ) It’s a great feeling, like you’re totally in control of yourself and the audience and the conductor is kind enough to draw out the phrase until you have finished your arabesque… Victory!
- Those times when your headpiece, which has never come loose before, falls out during the Spanish variation during Act II. Oh well.
- Those times when Franz tries to pluck the trick flower from your bouquet but manages to get only the head of the flower, leaving the stem still in your hands? That’s when you switch the mime from “breaking” to “plucking.” Twice.
- Those times when your friend, when doing her variation about disliking her dress, actually rips her skirt and has a dangling piece for much of Act I.
- Those time when you know you have to go to bed but you can only lie there thinking of the music and of things you did and will do differently perhaps next time because you are still too excited to sleep even though the show ended two hours ago.
Now Sigma Rho Delta is choreographing a seven minute Coppélia to show at the MLK Center. I did Act II in two minutes. Impressive, huh?
Before the last show...
Oh my goodness, this past weekend’s performances of Coppélia were completely overwhelming — in the best of ways. Putting the experience into words is so difficult. Of course things didn’t go perfectly. The last night, when I finally got all the fouetté turns at the end of the ballet, I almost ate it on the pull in. It’s never perfect.
But while I am not satisfied with the performances (if I were satisfied, I don’t think I would be trying to produce art), I am overjoyed and overwhelmed and (though sad it is over) still riding on an incredible high. It might not be perfect, but oh my goodness, it’s so much fun.
Seniors on the ladder!
Class on Monday was painful for sure! When the adrenaline from performing was gone, the fatigue/soreness it masked definitely remained. The life of a dancer… We are busy preparing for dance finals. Academic classes are winding down too in a flurry of projects and tests and papers. This is the last final season I will have at Butler.
Somehow everything seems less real for a few days after we leave the theater. I’m getting ready for finals, of course, but part of me is still on that stage, smiling or crying or clenching my fists or falling in love or prancing around, full of mischief. Dancing Swanhilda was a tremendous blessing, and I know I will miss it so much. The only remedy? On to the next performance!
I know I’m dancing in the Spotlight gala at Clowes and then in Carbondale for the Southern Illinois Music Festival… and then who knows what adventures wait for me in Tulsa? It’s scary and exciting, and I feel much more prepared to meet that challenge after the whirlwind that was Coppélia.
You see, these are the final preparations… because I’m a senior… preparing for finals… Oh dear.
I promise I’ll get to Coppélia – performing was such an amazing experience, I’m having the hardest time putting it into words. This week is still pretty busy, though. What happens the week after Coppélia?
- Field trip to Congregation Beth-El Zedeck for my Midrash English class.
- TURN IN my senior English essay. It’s not as good as I want it to be, but I’m done. Done. Done.
- Plan for our last senior ballet technique final. The seniors always include some sort of skit or prank or something for their last ballet final. Last year, the senior class did a basketball-themed entrance and even had some of the basketball team show up in tutus! The year before was Olympic-themed with students each on one of the professor’s teams (Team Cholewa = Poland, since Professor Cholewa is from Poland). This year… you’ll have to wait and see, since it’s top secret.
- Final projects, etc. I don’t like to think about those.
This week continues the whirlwind of my final month at Butler!
Now you have to buy tickets for Coppélia — it’s an Indianapolis Groupon deal, so you get a discount and everything! My roommate showed me the link. You get two tickets for $32, which is even less than I would pay as a student for two tickets with my student rate! At the time of this post, there are about thirteen hours left for the deal. Yes, I am shamelessly advertising now.
In any case, I’m glad to see Butler Ballet on big websites like Groupon. The shows are always more exciting when there is a sizable audience. After all, ballet is a performing art. The audience plays an integral role in what I see as the magic of the stage. Now I’m getting a bit sappy — probably because I’m writing this rather quickly because production week is crazy — please do not judge me too harshly.
The synopsis the Groupon website has for Coppélia is fairly amusing. I suppose this is a comic ballet, so it is only fitting that this version of the libretto is comedic as well.
Studio Dress was this Saturday –the first time we’ve run Coppélia in order, in costumes. I was anxious for the event, since I had been rehearsing the hardest part — Act III, with the wedding pas — at the beginning of the rehearsal periods, then following with Act I then Act II in descending order of stress. Yesterday we went straight through, with everyone in place, with costumes.
Before we started, I just listened to the overture with my eyes closed, soaking the fact that, yes, this is happening. I know I was still a little nervous because I was rushing the music in the beginning, but overall? Actual fun. I realize this is all I’ve been talking about for the last few weeks, but this is such a revelation for me, the nervous ninny.
There were a few bumps along the way… I messed up the sequence of some of the choreography in Act II; I couldn’t get the Scottish hat to stay on before the Scottish variation; some of the wedding pas was bumpy — probably because this was literally the first time either of us had done it in costume, and my tutu had more friction than usual and his sleeves kept getting in my face. But these are kinds of things that make great stories, n’est-ce pas?
Production Week starts tomorrow. Tech rehearsals, spacing, orchestra rehearsals, dress rehearsals, ACH the real performances!! I’m going to be so sad when it’s all over, but for now I’m totally, completely enjoying the ride.
Giuseppina Bozzacchi as the first Swanhilde in 1870.
Tomorrow is Studio Dress for Coppélia! I’ve written numerous posts on Studio Dress — you can read them if you want. Also, I wouldn’t really argue if you wanted to buy tickets for Coppélia.
I’m so excited. I spent a good part of this semester telling myself not to be nervous, reminding myself to enjoy my final months at Butler. The spring of my sophomore year, I was one of the Little Swans in the Butler Ballet’s Swan Lake. I was nervous all the time. I couldn’t eat without feeling sick to my stomach, and I had nightmares that one of the dance professors locked me in the smallest ballet studio in the basement and wouldn’t let me out because he wanted me to practice.
Even last year I was nervous for Sleeping Beauty far in advance of the actual shows because I found out I was the last minute understudy for Aurora and learned the whole ballet in about three days. I had a dream that I had to go in because my friend who actually dancing the role decided she didn’t want to do and it and was laughing at me from the wings while I tried to do the grand pas, only I decided to change the choreography at the last minute and didn’t tell my partner… This dream = a nightmare.
This year, I’ve thrown myself in the fun of the role. As I’ve said before, Swanhilda is a real girl, not some remote princess or swan maiden, which makes her more approachable. When I leave the stage angry, I play over dialogue in my head so if I have to enter slightly more cheerful, I know how I got there; if I am to be upset, I cover my face in my hands sometimes so the other dancers don’t see what weird faces I’m sure I’m making. Keeping track of the emotional story gives the dancing purpose and makes it fun.
I did have one dream where the dance faculty told everyone that due to copyright issues, we would be performing Dracula instead of Coppélia, and I had three weeks to learn everything. The subconscious is an amazing thing…
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.
In a dance studio not terribly far away, Coppélia begins.
*cue Star Wars rolling theme credits/music*
Since one of our heavy rehearsal days last week was cancelled due to plumbing issues in Lilly Hall and I was traveling to Kansas City on Saturday, this week feels like the first real chunk of rehearsals. I have the good fortune to dance Swanhilda in Butler Ballet’s Coppélia. I am having so. much. fun.
In the last three days, I’ve learned, in addition to some Act I stuff/a variation from the previous week:
- Most of the end of Variations on a Slavic Theme with the Friends
- The wheat pas (a pas de dix in this version… though I’m not sure how it’s dix because a normal pas de deux has one couple, two people. So with a corps of eight couples, shouldn’t this be a pas de dix-huit? Or even a pas de neuf? My boyfriend tells me it’s like polypeptides: Once you get past a certain number, the peptides just become “many.”)
- The wedding adagio
- Some of the Swanhilda/Franz Act I mime/acting
- Part of the Act III Ribbon Dance (where I literally become a human Maypole, holding all the ribbons in a shoulder sit that rotates.)
Have I mentioned that I’m having a blast? I’ve never danced such a large part before — well, thanks to the foot injury that switched me from Sugarplum to Snow Queen in The Nutcracker, I’ve never performed an entire classical pas either — but Swanhilda is the perfect role.
I think I would be more nervous if I were dancing a princess or something — I had scary dreams about doing (and forgetting) the wedding pas from The Sleeping Beauty when I was understudying Aurora — but Swanhilda is a real girl, a normal girl, a girl in love who gets angry and hits her rather flighty fiancé over the head with flowers, who laughs with her friends and sneaks into Dr. Coppélius’ house and can be rather nasty but in the end understands a father’s love can be just like her own marital love. She’s much more human to me than a princess, and I’m so excited I have the chance to dance her.