High Desert Dance Arts is showcasing story ballet
Karlenn Smith grew up doing story ballet performances and is familiar with how they bring the dance style to life.
Now, two years into owning High Desert Dance Arts, the instructor is hoping to showcase it for her students and the local community. In addition to putting on a spring show where all of the different dance styles from jazz and tap to ballet will take the stage, High Desert will present Coppelia, a story ballet performance.
Coppelia is a comic ballet from 1870 originally choreographed by Arthur Saint-Léon to the music of Léo Delibes, with libretto by Charles-Louis-Étienne Nuitter. It tells the story of Dr. Coppélius, a doctor who has made a life-size dancing doll. It is so lifelike that Franz, a village youth, becomes infatuated with it and sets aside his heart's true desire, Swanhilda. She shows him his folly by dressing as the doll, pretending to make it come to life and ultimately saving him from an untimely end at the hands of the inventor.
"It's probably my favorite ballet," Smith said, "because it's fun and light-hearted."
Smith considers herself a bit of a ballet missionary. It is not typically viewed as the fun dancing style — at High Desert, the building block of dance is required in order for students to take the more popular contemporary dance classes. She hopes Coppelia will help change that view.
"I don't think they catchy the magic of the genre until they have done a full production where they do acting, and there's props and scenery and sets that they work. I just want them to be able to have that experience."
The High Desert performance is a pared down hour-long version of the full performance, which typically clocks in at about and a half. But it remains an ambitious performance with roughly 30-35 dancers ages 7-17 participating — some of whom are playing as many as four different roles.
Smith also brought in a guest performer, a former student of hers in Bend who is now 16. He will play the role of Franz, the main male protagonist. His guest performance will enable the main female protagonist in the show to do some Pas de deux, partner dancing for ballet.
"He is going to so a little solo as well," Smith added.
In addition to the guest performer, the production will benefit from Eugene Ballet, which rents sets to people for different performances.
"They are going to rent their Coppelia set," Smith said. "They are going to actually bring it over, set it up for us and take it back with them after we are done." She added that they are lending props for the performance as well. "It will jut make it really special."
Smith said her students are working hard and having a lot of fun with the acting parts.
"See, ballet is really cool!" she has told them.
The fruits of their labor will finally be on display next weekend. High Desert will present Coppelia at the Crook County High School auditorium on Friday and Saturday, June 3 and 4 with shows starting each evening at 7 p.m. Tickets can be purchased online or at the door. "It's an opportunity to go see live theater, and we haven't been able to do that for so long," Smith said. "And I think if people haven't tried live ballet, it's not as stodgy as people think. There's a lot of nuance and there are a lot of funny moments…I think that it's going to be cool."
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