NO MATTER how many Swan Lakes, Nutcrackers or Sleeping Beauties come to Worthing with various
touring companies, it’s ballets like Coppélia that offer the greater fun for the audience and scope
for invention and interpretative variation for the artistes and dancers. And this ballet was definitely
what the quack ordered to lift spirits during a freezing early Easter.
The cold, with families choosing to stay inside, plus a Coppélia only recently here in November with
Vienna Festival Ballet, combined to reduce the audience turn-out. But they, including one fan of
MBLC who travelled down from Woking, were treated to a different principal in the lead female
of Swanhilda. Recent annual visits have featured the petite brunette Nadejda Ivanova but she was
resting after dancing Swanhilda the previous evening.
That gave us Ekaterina Shalyapina, a compact, blonde less exhuberant than Ivanova, but just as
absorbing in a more contained and less flamboyantly elegant way. She was the Coppélia actually on
the posters and programme cover. She’s from the far east of Russia, and the lakeside city of Ulan-
Ude whence came Dymchik Saykeev, the outstanding male character dancer seen at Brighton Dome
with St Petersburg Ballet Theatre over several Christmases in the 2000s.
Ekaterina’s now resident on Moscow and likes to be called ‘Kate’ when she’s in England. She was
taking no truck from her boyfriend Franz (Sergey Kuptsov) in Act 1, when he stupidly falls for Dr
Coppélius’ doll, Coppélia, who is displayed on a balcony overlooking the town square. There’s
no way out for him until he crashes out to Coppélius’ tranquillising potion, deep in the Doctor’s
toymaking den while Swanhilda leads Coppélius a merry prankish dance, or rather several of them
including Spanish and Scottish, before the story happily resolves itself.
Shalyapina and the much less experienced Kuptsov combined delightfully and understatedly in their
Wedding Act 3 pas de deux and their variations went well, too. Kate’s fouettés drew applause before
she’d finished and Kuptsov’s leaps satisfied.
MBLC’s Act 2 workshop setting is outstanding, even the toys threaten to run amok like the
inquisitive girls, and the dramatisation this time had two highlights. One was the surprise of a knight
freezing with one of Swanhilda’s friends in an armlock and the need for all six of the other girls to
yank her frantically to freedom before the Doctor caught them intruding.
Coppélius himself was a strikingly different figure to the frequently familiar gnomish ones on offer.
Here was MBLC’s male principal Andrey Shalin, in mid-transition, between the noble heroic roles
danced in full fitness, to character ones enforced by a back injury. Taller than the average male
lead to boot, he naturally commanded the stage and presented a mysterious yet less grumpy or
cantankerous idea of Coppélius.
Costumes got better and better through the ballet and culminated in the sumptuous, rippling one in
grey, blue and black for the Call To Prayer. In this soloist Galina Akhmetova conveyed the mystical
element that reminds the partying townsfolk of one of the roles assigned to the new town-clock bell
being installed in the square that festive day.
The corps ensembles outfits had all the colour you’d want, showtime Cossacks included, and when
the poorer folk suddenly appeared in simple plain beige tunics and dresses with austere hats it
struck a chord of broader artistic inclusivity and observance.
To take home was probably the best glossy programme we get from the touring companies. Many
a family will not only enjoy the full story narrative in many words and pictures, but learn about the
music and the history of Coppélia, as well as the Moscow Ballet La Classique stars they saw.