Coppella Main

A Ballet with 75 Performers

By Mike V. Derderian

The hall was overflowing with people. Wherever one looked there was someone sitting on the footsteps of the carpeted aisles of the theatre at the Royal Cultural Centre.

It was a Saturday, and to be more specific the 25th of October, 2014.

A month later I decided to write a review of the wonderful ballet, choreographed by the ever glowing Rania Kamhawi; a review I was supposed to write the moment I’ve returned home.

I was there with my wife and daughter Amie and like anything you would expect from The King Hussein Foundation: The National Centre for Culture & Art it was an evening of enchantment.

If there was any shortcoming, and there was one, it was not the fault of the 75 performers, Miss Kamhawi and the artistic and technical team behind Coppélia as a production; it was that of the theatre itself: It was too small for such an unforgettable beautiful performance.

Coppélia, as a ballet transcended the boundaries of the narrow stage of the Royal Palace. It was genuine and heartfelt; performed and played out with fervor by all 75 dancers.

If it wasn’t, the theatre hall wouldn’t have been overflowing with attendees to a degree that made having such a crowd in one single space rather dangerous if a fire, God forbid, broke out.

An elderly lady and three others, younger in age, Lebanese judging by their accents, sat next to me on chairs that were placed at the last moment. Like everyone else present they were transfixed by the balanced blend of classical music, dance and acting.

Every few minutes and throughout the performance my daughter, who usually pulls a Footloose on us when we go through clothing departments in malls that play loud dance music, started swinging her arms and standing on one leg.

A sense of pride with some embarrassment swept over me as I watched her face light up to the tempo of the music to which the performers of Coppella danced.

If I was writing this piece for The Star Weekly, where I worked as a journalist for eight years, I wouldn’t have included some of the above paragraphs but since this is a personal blog I am sure you will forgive my transgression.

There are many elements that turned Coppella into a beautiful and enjoyable ballet, and as I have mentioned earlier the genuine delivery of dance and theatrics are among those elements.

Before we go into that let me list the creative team behind it:

Artistic Direction & Choregraphy …. Rania Kamhawi

Head Dance Instructors …. Rania Kamhawi & Svetlana Tahboub

Dance Instructors … Ruba Abu Sabha, Tamara Haddad and Natalie Salsa

Costume Design … Hind Dajani

Set Design … Hamada Shweini

Graphic Design … Ala Al Qaisi

Financial Administration … Mohamad Badran and Bana Wreikat

PR & Marketing … Randa Fakhoury and Nour Dirieh

Technical Staff … Jamal Masri, Mahmud Hamad, Mohannad Al-Tal, Mohammad Attiyeh, Fawaz Al Rawashdeh, Faisal Huneiti and Omar Rawashdeh

Volunteer … Zeinab Al Shrouf, Saba Obeidat, Suzan Al Banawi and Mohammed Zemirli.

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Anyone reading the program will come upon a special thanks to Ms. Lina Attel, Mr. Mohammad Abu Sumaqa, Firas Al Masri and the Royal Cutlural Center.

I would have loved to include the names of all 75 performers with the above credits but to be honest I could not for lack of time – sure if I wanted I would have asked for a soft copy of the program but I didn’t. Continue reading please!

The talented 75 performers had roles that ranged between feasting friends, giddy school children, exuberant butterfly catchers, anxious toy makers, lovely dolls, and energetic sickle dancers swaying and dancing during a wheat harvest dance.

The National Center for Culture and Art – King Hussein Foundation Coppélia is a ballet in three acts: Act I, A Ballet in Three Act; Act II, The Deception and Act III, The Wedding. It tells the story of a screwy doll maker, Coppelius, who lives in a village full of nosy life-loving people, who are constantly breaking into his toy shop out of curiosity and interest in his humanoid inventions.

Also living in the village are Swanilda and Franz, who are gradually falling in love with each other to the backdrop of a festive village.

The three main characters are performed by Natalie Salsa (Swanilda), Bijan Qutub (Franz) and Apo Yaghmourian (Coppelius).

The beautifully tailored costumes gave the performance a European production value. The set design was simple and practical – allowing quick shifts in between scenes without disrupting the flow of the story.

One of the most memorable scenes was the dolls ballet scene at Coppelius’ toy shop where the lead female character Swanilda and her friends decide to toy with the old recluse.

After breaking into the toy shop Swanilda and her friends find themselves facing colorful dolls by the dozen. The moment the eccentric toy maker walks into the room they all hide behind the dolls. A few seconds later the lifeless dolls, each representing a culture, come to life to the sound of gentle music and well-choreographed ballet movement.

The entire production seemed familiar and reminded me of a ballet performance that I saw on television 25 years ago. The distant memory of an old toy maker getting angry with young men and women, who snuck into his workshop came to my mind as the performance neared its finale.

Premiering on the 25th of May in 1870 Coppélia was choreographed by Arthur Saint-Léon to a musical arrangement by of Léo Delibes. I still haven’t found the tele-ballet that I saw a couple of years ago but I will, and when I do I will share it.

What I loved most about the Coppélia choreographed by Miss Kamhawi was how all the performers, young and old, were really into their roles. The friendly smiles and the inviting hand gestures intermingled in the background adding to the movements of the graceful dancers floating in the foreground.

It was a magical night for this writer, his wife and his daughter, and I cannot wait to attend any upcoming performance by the National Center for Culture and Art – King Hussein Foundation for I know I will not be disappointed.

“Thank you for enduring with us especially with such a full stage. We truly apologize for that! Based on tonight’s attendance we are to perform the ballet for another night,” Miss Kamhawi, who was surrounded by her dancers at the end of the performance, announced to a cheering audience.

“I wish to thank you from the bottom of my heart. It is of utmost importance to us that you attend our performances. Thank you for supporting us,” Miss Kamhawi concluded.

On a final note the next time you hear of such a performance that is choreographed by the ever-passionate and gentle Rania Kamhawi make sure you buy a ticket.

About the writer/blogger:

Mike V. Derderian is a writer, a disc-jockey at Radio Jordan 96.3 FM and a journalist with 13 years of experience. At the moment he is working as an illustrator and a street artist. For writing and illustration assignments e-mail mikevderderian@yahoo.com

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