When one thinks of ballet, the images that come to mind are often those of dramatic numbers — dances choreographed to express sadness or passion. Comedy, on the other hand, is seldom associated with ballet performances, which is what makes “Coppélia” — presented today and Saturday by Dance Studio B — unique.
“It’s a very, very colorful work,” said Brianna Boyle, who owns the studio. “You have very traumatic ballets and you have very romantic ballets.
“This is one of the few very comedic ballets.”
First performed in 1870, “Coppélia” is set in Nuremberg, Germany, and follows the misadventures of a young, engaged couple, Franz and Swanhilda.
“It’s kind of that young, imperfect love where the man has a little bit of wandering eye and the young lady is a little bit bossy,” Boyle said.
Franz spies a beautiful young woman sitting on a balcony and falls in love, much to Swanhilda’s annoyance. The balcony belongs to an inventor named Doctor Coppélius and — together with friends — Swanhilda breaks into the inventor’s house to investigate.
“As they’re investigating, they discover everything is under sheets and this is a mysterious place,” Boyle said.
The twist is that the beautiful young woman who stole Franz’ attention is actually a mechanical doll — a doll Doctor Coppélius hopes to bring to life.
As Caroline Lockard, who plays the role of Swanhilda, said, “chaos ensues.”
She added most people have never heard of “Coppélia,” and would not regret getting to know it this weekend.
“It’s not a common story,” Lockard said. “It’s also a comedic ballet, which is unusual. Ballets aren’t usually comedic and so it’s a very family-friendly ballet.”
Another unusual feature of the ballet is its focus on theatrics, Boyle said, adding “Coppélia” was sometimes called the actor’s play because of it.
“A lot of times … your focus is the technique of the dance,” she said. “So, whether you’re doing ballet, tap, jazz, you have this strong focus on technique. The focus in this performance is how to tell this story. And you can’t do it using words — you have to do it using actions.”
The ballet features more than 200 performers in roles as varied as villagers and wheat.
“It’s all ages,” Lockard said. “We have little 3-year-olds dancing all the way up to adults dancing in it. It also contains different styles of dancing — it has hip-hop and tap and jazz and ballet — and it’s turned into this whole story.”
The ballet starts at 7 p.m. today and Saturday in the Gyphon Theatre, 710 Garfield Street. Tickets are $12 in advance and $15 at the door. Go to www.gryphontheatre.org for more information.