Pennsylvania Youth Ballet takes comedic turn with ‘Coppelia’
The Pennsylvania Youth Ballet (PYB) and Ballet Guild of the Lehigh Valley (BGLV) presents its spring ballet, “Coppelia,” 7 p.m. May 31, Baker Hall, Zoellner Arts Center, Lehigh University, Bethlehem.
“Coppelia,” a popular comedic ballet that premiered in Paris in 1870, is the story of an eccentric toymaker who creates a life-like doll. When a village boy named Franz becomes infatuated with the doll, his fiancé, Swanhilda, tries to intervene.
Hijinks and hilarity ensue between the two lovers. With colorful costumes, festive dances and toys that come to life, the whimsical ballet has delighted audiences of all ages.
PYB Artistic Director Karen Kroninger-Knerr choreographed the ballet to the music of Leo Delibes and follows choreographer Marius Petipa’s revised version, which he created for the Imperial Ballet of Saint Petersburg, Russia.
The Ballet Guild, a nonprofit organization founded by Marjorie Berlin Fink in 1958, is the umbrella organization of the PYB.
Kroninger-Knerr has been Artistic Director of BGLV since 2007. She received a BFA from The Juilliard School Dance Division and was a Principal Dancer with Albany Berkshire Ballet and Ellen Sinopoli Dance Company. Knerr is an ABT Certified Teacher.
“Coppelia” has a cast of more than 70 professional, pre-professional and student performers. The performance includes a puppet created by Mock Turtle Marionette Theater, Bethlehem.
“All of Act II takes place in Doctor Coppelius’ toy shop,” says Kroninger-Knerr. “So we thought, ‘We know that we have this wonderful puppet theater so let’s collaborate with another local artist.’ Doug Roysdon [Artistic Director of Mock Turtle Marionette Theater] created this wonderful puppet for us.
“It was really nice to incorporate it into Act II. Some of the younger dancers will dance onstage with the puppet, which is really a cute, fun invention to add to that scene.”
The life-sized doll character, with whom Franz is smitten, will be performed by a PYB student.
The ballet presents several character dances. The mazurka, a folk dance with a lively tempo, features 14 dancers. “It’s powerful to see so many dancers on stage for the mazurka,” says Kroninger-Knerr.
“Coppelia” includes classical ballet.
Playing Franz is Lucius Kirst of the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre. Kirst participated in summer intensive programs at American Ballet Theatre and the San Francisco Ballet. Kirst previously appeared in two BGLV-PYB productions of “The Nutcracker.”
Playing Doctor Coppelius is Kris Yoder, an actor and director who has been on the adjunct faculty at DeSales University, Northampton Community College, Muhlenberg College and Messiah College. He performed in the BGLV-PYB production of “Cinderella” and played the roles of Doctor Stahlbaum and Herr Drosselmeyer in BGLV’s “Nutcracker.”
Student roles include Elisabeth Lee (12th grade, Liberty High School) as Swanhilda, David Shively-Ertas (11th grade, Freedom High School) as Mazurka Lead and Sorcerer, Olivia Lovell (10th grade, Parkland High School) performing the Dawn Variation, Emelia Belet (11th grade, Belvidere High School) performing the Prayer Variation, and Madison Bauman (11th grade, Wilson Area High School) as Mazurka Lead.
PYB has performed “Coppelia” before, but in a smaller venue. “We’ve added more scenery, set design and lighting to be in Zoellner Arts Center,” says Kroninger-Knerr.
“It’s a comedic ballet, so it’s fun and enjoyable for anyone. This is another great story ballet that can introduce one to ballet if they’ve never seen it before. It keeps it light and fun and has a happy ending. Some of your classical ballets don’t.
“The students are always changing, and we incorporate everybody, so there’s always a new element to it to keep it fresh.”
Tickets: Zoellner Arts Center box office, 420 E. Packer Avenue, Bethlehem; firstname.lastname@example.org; 610-7LU-ARTS