Dance Review by Carlos Stafford, The Model Critic

It was a grand night for ABT’s, Paloma  Herrera!  This Argentinean-born dancer, celebrating her twenty seasons with American Ballet Theatre, and dancing in one of the most cherished of all ballets from the Classical Era, presented a perfect opportunity for Ms. Herrera to perform once again, and to remind audiences of the immense pleasure she has so graciously given throughout the years–quite an extraordinary accomplishment. – Paloma Herrera’s Final Bows.

A Tribute to ABT’s Paloma Herrera

One can’t ask more from a ballet than Coppelia.  Consider the lush music of Leo Delibes, first performed in Paris in 1870, filled with gaiety and surprising variety; paired with the choreography of Frederic Franklin (after Nicholas Sergeyev), presenting a panoply of Mazurkas, Czardas, Spanish, and Scottish character dances, embedded harmoniously into the development of comedy, love dances, and group celebrations. Add to these, the tone poems dances of Hours, Dawn, and Prayer, in Act 111, and you have a rich amalgam of visual and aural art.

The story is simple and sweet.  Franz (Angel Corella) is in love with Swanilda (Herrera), but sees a doll in Dr. Coppelius’ (Victor Barbee) window, reading a book, and falls in love with her.  Swanilda becomes jealous, sneaks into Dr. Coppelius’ workshop with friends at night, and discovers that the doll is merely what she is, a doll.  Coppelius discovers the intruders, and chases them away, except for Swanilda, who quickly disguises herself as the doll. She then decides to play a trick on Coppelius, and come to “life” as the doll.  Coppelius thinking he has created an animate being ( historically in the realm of Dr. Frankenstein), has drugged Franz, who has also tried to sneak in the workshop, and proceeds to try to magically imbue Franz’s heart to Swanilda.  As Swanilda mechanically moves through the workshop, with the help of Coppelius, she magically “transforms” to human.  She dances her Spanish and Scottish dance with fine style and to the delight of Dr. Coppelius; then proceeds to create mayhem in the workshop by winding up all the other dolls and running amuck. All intruders escape, and the next morning the villagers celebrate the many marriages.  The Burgomaster gives dowries of gold to all, including Dr. Coppelius, for the trouble he has endured, and all are united in joyous celebration.

The dances seem to come and go fluidly throughout the performance, as each builds from grace note to grace note.  Moving from the introduction of the villagers in Act 1, to the celebratory dances for the impending nuptials, elegance and aplomb is on proud and playful display.  Special mention to the Polish Mazurka, and Czardas performed with charm, masculine haughtiness, and most of all, elegance; to the Grand Pas de Duex with Corella and Herrera, cast perfectly together, and delighting the audience with their intuitive partnering. Herrera, small, pixyish, and flexible was at the same time, comedic as the doll, and romantic and expressive as Swanilda.  As for Corella, one could say he always brings his welcomed boyish charm, and dances his heart out with each performance.

In Act 111, the children from JKO’s school for ABT, performed wonderfully in beautiful light green tulle, and presented a visual and poetic dance to the passing of the hours.  Stella Abrera gloriously performed her tribute to dawn, and Marie Riccetto’s prayer dance, was moving and delicately reverent.  Mending their love, Herrera and Corella, ended the performance to the great familiar music, and an astonishing fish dive, where the ballerina is lifted and quickly tilted forward, body inverted.  Usually done to the front, the audience was rewarded with a spectacular bravura dive to the rear.  Both dressed in shimmering white, displaying open and gracious personalities, set the tone for the real celebrations afterwards.