WEEKEND: Ballet instructor goes out with ‘Coppelia’

By Diane Urbani de la Paz
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — For her swan song at the Ballet Workshop, Sylvia Wanner wanted something light, sweet and funny.

This weekend, she and a cast of 30 dancers will present the very thing: “Coppélia,” a comic ballet featuring a tall, red-headed inventor, a dancing doll and, naturally, lovers who tangle on their way to the altar.

Wanner has been an artistic force in Clallam County for more than 40 years. After opening her ballet school in 1970, she has staged many productions of “The Nutcracker,” as well as an earlier “Coppélia,” “Sleeping Beauty,” “The Six Swans” and “Alice in Wonderland.”

Now, Wanner is ready to retire. She has put the Ballet Workshop, located off Front Street in downtown Port Angeles, up for sale. And last winter, she set about casting one more “Coppélia.” And as has been her tradition, Wanner is bringing together a corps of children, teenagers and adults for a generation-spanning ballet.

“Coppélia” which had its first performance Thursday, unfolds in a setting more intimate than usual: on the dance floor at the Elks Naval Lodge, 131 E. First St. So instead of looking up at the performers on stage, the audience will be seated around and above them, on the floor and balcony.

Performances are at 7:30 tonight, at 2:30 p.m. Saturday and finally at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, with tickets at $15 for general admission, $25 for premium seating and $7.50 for all seats for children 12 and younger. Outlets include Port Book and News, 104 E. First St., Port Angeles, and Pacific Mist Books, 121 W. Washington St., Sequim. Any remaining seats will be sold at the door.

“It’s going to be wonderful,” Wanner said. “We are having a good time with it,” in rehearsals that have been under way since March.

The Ballet Workshop has a core group of teenagers this year, added teacher Rachel Roening. They’re few in number but technically strong, and they’re the backbone of “Coppélia.” Julia Tatum and Heather Kaufmann, both 18, alternate in the lead role of Swanhilde, while Maria Tatum and Emily Grubb, both 14, share the title role.

Cody Coughenour, a Port Angeles-bred 30-something is Dr. Coppelius, inventor of the dancing doll. These comic-relief roles, he says, are his favorites. Coughenour, co-owner of the Toad Lily Hostel in Port Angeles, studied at the Ballet Workshop, and has danced with ballet companies around the United States.

On loan from Ballet Victoria are Eric Hall and Matthew Cluff, two men who, Roening said, are “very animated.” They’ve leapt headlong into the production, she adds. This is a story about “a lover’s quarrel,” and “boys being boys,” and the Canadian pair fit right in.

“Coppélia” opens in the doctor’s house, from whence the life-size doll comes dancing. She’s so lifelike, it seems, that Franz, a young buck from the village, goes a little nuts for her. He even sets aside his sweetheart Swanhilde.

She is no dummy, though. Swanhilde shows Franz his folly by dressing up as Coppélia the doll — and springing to life.

The drama runs about 90 minutes, Roening said, with four acts and an intermission. Set to music by Leo Delibes, “it moves quick. It has a little bit of everything.”

As for Kaufmann, who has been dancing at the Ballet Workshop since she was 6, “Coppélia” has the right balance.

“It has love in it,” she says, “but it’s also really funny.”

Last modified: June 20. 2013 5:57PM
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