Ballet ‘Coppelia’ by Rockford Dance Company.
By Sue Langenberg

Rockford Dance Company always presents a special spring concert, and this occasion Saturday at the Coronado Theatre Saturday matinee of “Coppelia” is no exception.
A pre-show performance was presented Friday morning for several Rockford schools including Auburn, Keith Country Day, Milestone, Emanuel Lutheran, Laine Oliver, and Itty Bitty Home School as well as volunteers from the Regional Learning Centre. For many of these young people, it was their first experience in a theatre, especially one as ornate as the Coronado, magically removed from all of real life outside the doors that separate the audience from the world.
The students filed in, somehow knowing beforehand that they would be inspired in some special way. For RDC, the performance was again living proof that the way to build an audience is to educate at the same time. People don’t merely show up at the theatre these days; the theatre must reach out to plant a seed of inspiration into young minds.
The ballet “Coppelia,” is a marvelous example of history, magic and storytelling. Originally a tale written prior to 1870 by E. T. A. Hoffman, it explains an enchantment similar to “The Nutcracker,” also by Hoffman, with some reference to worldly folk dances as well as historic European influences. A nineteenth century village with all its cleanliness and quaintness is the scene of the action, giving the townspeople a chance to fill the stage with dancelike Mazurkas and Czardas to catchy ¾ meters that strike the soul of a society.
But, as the story goes, there is a darkened and mysterious figure Dr. Coppelius, eccentric in his ways, much like a Dickens character where everyone wonders and fears a rather strange aura about him. He creates mechanical dolls, some come to life, others do not, a tale that takes the magic further.
The role of Dr. Coppelius is played by Randall Newsom, an area treasure of dance that hails more recently as retired Professor Emeritus of the dance program at Northern Illinois University, and now an active Chicago choreographer. As a character role in this ballet, one might think that because it requires little technical display, the part can be simply presented in an appropriate costume and that is the end. A strong character, however, with gestures and storytelling abilities must draw from a rich background of body language comparable to Newsom’s international experience. Thus a gesture with the hand takes a whole body to explain. It is called stage presence, a highly valuable essence required, as Newsom performs.
Some of this body language, or classical mime, was instructed by RDC’s artistic director Margaret Faust during intermissions of the school sow. Her displays of various ballet emotions included “love,” “beautiful,” “dance,” “handsome” and “fight,” all timeless passions that students of today can relate to.
For the school show, Act II in Dr. Coppelius’ studio of mechanical dolls and a regal wedding pas de deux from Act III were presented to depict highlights of a story that we all want to believe when dolls come to life, everyone is happy and all in the end is celebrated by a lone village long ago.
Stellar RDC dancers include guest artist J.P. Tenuta, also from NIU, as handsome Frantz, Anastasia Benson (graduating and moving on in life), Bailey Glaven (also graduating and moving on in life), Rachel Seger, Hillary Mellinger, Sara Maxey, Ann Moczynski and trainees Katie Davis, Anna Gibbons Gabrielle Myers, Emma Porter, Madeline Shaw, Alli Tennant, Lily and Maddy Wellen.
Soloists long time RDCer Larry Pool, Jeffrey Wang and character regular Ron Foran along with many townspeople, townschildren and friends dance and tell a story of long ago. (Performance this afternoon at 4 p.m., Coronado Theatre, Rockford.)