“Coppelia” marries comedy and ballet at Sand Harbor

| July 23, 2013 | 0 Comments

Gardnerville native Erica Chipp, left, and Maykel Solas, right, in last year’s Sierra Nevada Ballet performance of Giselle at Sand Harbor.

Written by Kyle Magin

The bright lights of Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival will again illuminate the storytelling abilities of Sierra Nevada Ballet (SNB) next week as the company sets to perform Coppelia.

The ballet classic—a comedy—begins its two-performance run in the Sierra Saturday at University of Nevada, Reno’s Nightingale Concert Hall. It’ll be featured at Sand Harbor as part of the Shakespeare Festival’s Monday night series at 7:30 p.m. next Monday.

Coppelia tells the story of young lovers—Swanhilde (played by Gardnerville native Erica Chipp) and Franz (played by Cuban dancer Maykel Solas)—who decide to marry, only to have their plans complicated by the eccentric and bizarre Dr. Coppelius (Domingo Rubio). Franz falls for a doll he sees in the window of Dr. Coppelius’ shop—the title character—walking into a trap laid by the doctor.

The performance marks the second straight year Chipp dances in the lead for SNB—outside of the summer, she dances for San Francisco’s Smuin Ballet—and the local native is excited for the opportunity.

“I love performing in my hometown, and I don’t get to do any classical ballets at Smuin, so this is my chance to dive into my deep love of classics,” she says.

In a departure from last year’s Sand Harbor performance of Giselle, where Chipp played the demure, whispy title character, the role of Swanhilde allows her to act more naturally, she says.

“Swanhilde is a sassy, fiery girl,” Chipp says. “That’s easier for me to play.”

The challenge for Chipp comes in the play’s second act, when she has to pretend to be one of Dr. Coppelius’ human-like dolls, adopting a stiff dancing style, she says.

“It’s hard to make that transition, and Swanhilde dances for the entire second act, the role is physically super-demanding,” Chipp adds.

To prepare for the role, Chipp comes back to the Sierra for about a month leading up to the performances, readjusting her body to the altitude by practicing yoga, attending regular ballet lessons and mostly, rehearsing the part, she adds.

She has a staunch backer in Sierra Nevada Ballet Director Rosine Bena. The head of the company works in tandem with the dancers to prepare for their Sand Harbor performance—undertaking the tedious task of measuring the stage and its permanent components (they’re the same set pieces used by Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, running throughout the week this season)—so SNB’s dancers can get the hang of their surroundings at their Reno-based studio.

Bena, whose goal it is to have a full-time ballet company one day, assembles talents like Ballet San Jose’s Solas and longtime regulars like Rubio to create a worthy ensemble.

“We usually try to have the same dancers perform with our company,” Bena says. “Erica is a beautiful dancer and actress—we’ve worked together for many years—and the audience was so receptive to her last year.”

Pairing Chipp again with Solas was a no-brainer, as the two showed excellent chemistry in Giselle, Bena says.

Grab a bottle of wine and a blanket and head down to Sand Harbor on Monday to see for yourself.

Ticket information for the UNR show is here. Ticket information for the Sand Harbor show is here. For more on Sierra Nevada Ballet, and the Reno dance academy the company plans to open this year, click here.

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Category: Arts & Culture, Performing Arts

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