Some people say that the classical ballet style holds back the development of contemporary dance, but the classical style has one huge advantage.
Whereas contemporary dance productions can be good or bad, those in the traditional style can never really be the latter – they are either routine or outstanding.
And even routine classical productions invariably have a lot going for them.
Last week’s Coppelia from the HBSO Ballet in Sài Gòn’s Opera House was another strong creation of the Norwegian choreographer Johanne Jakelln Constant, previously responsible for both The Nutcracker and Cinderella.
Indeed, it appeared from the program that she also designed the scenery and costumes, and had a hand in the lighting as well.
Coppelia suffers from having only a minimal plot, and even that’s largely concentrated in the middle act.
But ballet is about dancing, and Delibes’ 1870 music still provides endlessly danceable melodies, with the result that the work remains one of the most frequently performed of all classical ballets.
It was only a few years ago that the HBSO Ballet just performed relatively short items, typically occupying half an evening’s entertainment.
It always felt as if it was capable of more sustained efforts, however, and Coppelia is now the third full-length work the company has under its belt.
It is, in other words, building a repertoire, something any mature dance company has to do.
This production, as is appropriate for an essentially comic ballet, was characterized by a sunny, equable disposition.
The long sequences of dances by the villagers that fill both the first and third acts everywhere reflected this good-natured ease.
Add to this color and extreme professionalism and you have the ingredients of a highly-satisfying performance, which was what we saw last week.
Đinh Thị Diễm Trang danced the leading female role of Swanhilde with grace and charm, while Hồ Phi Diệp (Don Jose in Shchedrin’s Carmen Suite in 2012) gave all the strength and imperturbability needed for the leading male role of Franz.
Both danced with aplomb, but then so did the dancers in the supporting roles, so many that it would be invidious to pick out individuals (though Nguyễn Huỳnh Bảo was very amusing as the Shepherd Doll).
Bùi Ngọc Quang as Dr. Coppelius also deserves mention, though his is scarcely a dancing role.
All in all, this was an intensely enjoyable production.
Audience numbers were not as high as they have now become for the seemingly annual Nutcracker performances, but those too began moderately, then climbed as news of the production’s attractiveness spread.
It will doubtless happen with Coppelia as well.
This hard-working company certainly deserves it.
By BRADLEY WINTERTON
Source: The Saigon Times