A review of Pacific Northwest Ballet's "Coppélia," featuring Kaori Nakamura, Jonathan Porretta, Jeffrey Stanton and a couple dozen charming children from the PNB school.

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Despite beautiful work by the company’s dancers, Pacific Northwest Ballet’s opening-night performance of “Coppélia” last weekend was stolen by some lesser-known names. Two dozen coral-tutu’d young students from the PNB school danced Act III’s “Waltz of the Golden Hours” with smiling precision, moving through George Balanchine’s intricate choreography as if doing so made them happy. Feet perfectly pointed and heads precisely tilted, they made the prettiest of pictures; you wonder, watching them, which one(s) we might see dancing a lead role here, in a decade or so.

And it seems right somehow that the youngest members of the cast would shine brightly: “Coppélia” is a ballet about youth, innocence, playfulness and joy. This version, choreographed by Balanchine and Alexandra Danilova for New York City Ballet in 1974, made its PNB debut two years ago, beautifully designed by Roberta Guidi di Bagno in shimmering pastels and whimsical patterns, and lit by Randall G. Chiarelli as if awash in magic sunshine. Its story is pure silliness: Swanilda (Kaori Nakamura), a village girl, teases her suitor Franz (Jonathan Porretta) and local eccentric toymaker Dr. Coppelius (former PNB principal Jeffrey Stanton, returning in a character role) by pretending to be a doll come to life. All ends happily, with a wedding and a parade of dances as the village bells ring.

Reprising their roles from the 2010 premiere, Nakamura and Porretta are charm personified; these roles, though technically challenging, are more about personality than technique. Nakamura, whose limbs move like silk, gives Swanilda a playful sweetness, while Porretta, when on the ground (this man soars like a superhero), beams at her side. They’re an appealing pair, balanced by a fine comedic performance by Stanton — who knows exactly when to drop the comedy and show us the wonder and awe of a man who believes that a toy he created has come to life.

Lesley Rausch, Lindsi Dec, Maria Chapman, Rachel Foster, Carrie Imler and Batkhurel Bold all looked strong in their variations (Dec, in particular, danced with a quiet fervor that made her solo intimate and moving), and that small army of girls made a lovely frame. “Coppélia” is a light, pretty ballet, full of memorable pictures — of the present, and perhaps the future.

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Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

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