A week shy of 140 years ago, the comic ballet "Coppelia" premiered. This weekend, it premieres in Minot.
"This is a traditional, classical ballet," said Ashleigh Collins, a volunteer with the Rinat Mouzafarov Institute of Dance and Ballet Theatre. "It's like the 'Nutcracker (Suite)' is a Christmas ballet, and this is the spring ballet."
The music is by Leo Delibes, with original choreography is by Mouzafarov.
Terry J. Aman/MDN - - Lexi Schriock is a living doll, dancing the title role in “Coppelia.”
Terry J. Aman/MDN - - Affianced couples and principal dancers in “Coppelia” include, from left: Jhondarr Lopez, Laurel Collins, Wade Walter, Hanna Wentz, Macy Christiansen, Timothy Lewis, Cassandra Helgeson, Daniel Johnson, Haley Wentz and Kason Hansen.
"This is the largest thing I've done since the 'Nutcracker,' with over 100 dancers," he said. "They are aged 2 to adult, and all the principal roles are local dancers. I am pleased to have 16 men in the production."
Mouzafarov has been working with several college students who have been seen in many theatrical productions in the past few years, including Jhondarr Lopez, Daniel Johnson, Kason Hanson and Wade Walter, who are dancing the roles of friends of the lead, Franz, performed by veteran Timothy Lewis.
Light comic ballet
"Coppelia" is performed Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. in Ann Nicole Nelson Hall at Minot State University by Rinat Mouzafarov's Institute of Dance and Ballet Theatre. Cost is $10 per person.
In the story, there's a huge celebration in a small town where a new bell is being hung in the church. Anyone getting married on that day gets a huge stipend. Franz and Swanilda, danced by Macy Christianson, along with a few other couples, are engaged, and looking forward to the day.
However, Franz and his friends see a vision of a girl, Coppelia, played by Alexis Schriock, who sits in her balcony every day and reads. The boys become fascinated by her, but her father, Dr. Coppelius, danced by Mouzafarov, does not allow her to go out.
Swanilda gets jealous, and with her girlfriends, danced by Laurel Collins, Cassandra Helgeson, Hanna Wentz and Haley Wentz, sneaks into the house. They discover it's a toy shop, and Coppelia is a doll. The girls have fun in the shop, but Dr. Coppelius thinks it's his dolls gone crazy.
"This is where the companies can change the dances they do, changing the culture of the country dances the dolls perform," Mouzafarov said. "I am giving a Scandinavian flavor to several dances in honor of the heritage in Minot, and there's a Polish mazurka, and Chinese and Slovenian dances too."
With the dolls kicking and hitting, the boys realize how foolish they were to fall in love with Coppelia, and go back to their fiancees.
"This is so funny," Collins said. "It's a beautiful, wonderful family ballet."
"The little children will love the doll dances," Mouzafarov said. "The costumes, which Tanya Lewis has designed, are very colorful. Some are professional, but she has had probably 50 parents sewing hundreds of costumes.
"It's the largest set, too, with (backdrops) flown in from New York, then packed up and sent back," he added. "The people who have worked hardest on this set are Chad Hofer, Tom Berg and Ashleigh and Chris Collins."
The first part takes place in the town center, and there are 18-foot tall buildings with the balcony. Then the whole transforms to the interior of the toy shop, then back again.