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COPPÉLIA (article first published : 2003-10-3)

Always a favourite with Durban audiences, the full-length comic ballet Coppélia set to Delibes’s delightful score was last performed in Durban in 1999 when the Fantanstic Flying Fish Dance Company included the students of their Scholarship Programme of the time.

FFFDC has now revived this ever-popular ballet, deliberately planning it for the schools holidays so that it can be more accessible to young ballet fans (and their parents!) who can enjoy all the magic of a night out at the theatre. Drawing on its strong relationship with dance teachers and dance studios in KZN, the company held auditions to choose young dancers with strong classical ballet talent to perform alongside the professional members of the highly-acclaimed FFFDC.

In this production, FFFDC is supported by the National Arts Council and The Playhouse Company. However, there is another major commitment and this comes from the dedicated young dancers who are performing without payment. With a cast of over 20 and a rehearsal period of four weeks plus the run, a ballet company would normally be looking at a salary bill in the region of R180,000. The structure for Coppélia works well for everyone. The young dancers get immensely valuable experience, appearing in roles they wouldn’t normally be given unless they were in a professional ballet company; FFFDC gets to honour its commitment to dance development in KZN, and the audience reaps the benefit of the end result.

Artistic Director, Mark Hawkins, uses every opportunity to introduce a touch of humour into this presentation of Coppélia and the result is lively and youthful.

An absolute delight in the part of the wilful coquettish Swanhilda is Louise Fraquet. She is ably partnered by Ebrahim Medell who can always be relied upon to present a proud and utterly focused performance. Peter Cazalet’s solid sets and enchanting costumes have stood the test of time and it was heartwarming to relive a little of the atmosphere created by lavish productions put on by the Playhouse in the distant past.

It was a good to enjoy the strong acting ability of the inimitable dance doyen Dudley von Loggenburg, back on stage after too long an absence as the grouchy toymaker Dr Coppelius, a role alternated by David Gouldie. Also nice to see FFFDC’s administrator, the tireless Peter Taylor, appear as the Burgomaster, ably partnered by Mary-Ann Salvage as his wife.

Liselle Sproull, Taryn Makaab, Lara Turk and Daniella Staub appear as Swanhilda’s friends and Lauren Salt is a spunky innkeeper’s daughter. Further mention must be made of Daniella Staub who also took the role of Dawn. Lara Turk was graceful and eloquent as Prayer.

Impressing with her focused performance is Michaela Griffin who appears as one of the Night Hours. Having won the SASAD Barbara Mullen USA Bursary in July this year, she attended classes in Boston, New York and Mexico and has been invited back to appear in The Nutcracker in December in Boston. The matinee performance on October 4 serves as a fund-raiser to allow this talented 14 year-old to take up the invitation. Tickets booked through Tracy Young on 031 266-7775. (Computicket closed to this show).

The full season of Coppélia runs in the Playhouse Drama from October 1 to 9 at 19h30 and there are certain matinee performances at 14h30. Tickets R65 (R45 children, scholars and pensioners) at Computicket, Dial-A-Seat on 031 369 9444 or online at www.computicket.co.za More information from FFFDC on 031 209 0142. – Caroline Smart




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