Dance Review: Copplél-I.A. world premiere

Jean Christophe Maillot manages to infuse the original story with challenging balletic practices with contemporary notions

BALLET DE Monte Carlo’s ‘Coppel-I.A.’  (photo credit: ALICE BLANGER)
BALLET DE Monte Carlo’s ‘Coppel-I.A.’
(photo credit: ALICE BLANGER)
Copplél-I.A. (world premiere)
Ballet de Monte Carlo
Choreographer: Jean Christophe Maillot
December 27-28, Grimaldi Forum, Monaco
Ballet Coppélia by Arthur Saint-Léon (France 1821-1870) (performed 1870), is among the few fully survived ballets of the romantic era, known for its simple, rather comic tale for all ages, set to appealing musical score by Leo Délibes. The mechanical doll, Coppélia, was built by Dr. Coppélius, an eccentric toy maker. She looks so real that Franz, a village youth, falls in love with her at first sight, and causes his fiancé, Swanilda, to be furious.
Jean Christophe Maillot, known for revising and spicing up a line of classical ballets with strong dramatic ingredients, manages to infuse the original story with challenging balletic practices with contemporary notions, as he had done before.
Maillot’s Coppélia regenerated from a mechanical toy, into a laboratory made android with artificial intelligence, and Coppélius named her by a name which suits an avatar: Copplél-I.A. which sounds like a password rather than a female’s name.
From here on, the simple, romantic story turned to be a complex, emotional turmoil, which feeds on power games and confronts participants to accept that the results of scientific research involving messing with the mind, cannot always be predicted. The duel of wills between Coppélia and Coppélius turns to be the core of the new narrative, while the love games of Swanilda and Franz seem a bit trivial in this context – without disrespecting love – but their local romance reflects the fading traces of romanticism.
For Coppél-I.A., Maillot played up with several major artistic ingredients using sound, sight and movement, not necessarily in that order.
The ballet opens up with blurred image of Coppélius, sending his own creation to face the real world. The dancer, Lou Beyne that impressed with her superb precision dance of nuances, won our curiosity, wondering if she herself is aware how she turns her artificial intelligence on or off. She started as a half-baked entity; with her limbs and movements not quite synchronized, she seems unaware of the new environment as her enameled eyes turn suddenly blank.
It didn’t take that long before we recognize signs that the frail glued-up delicate creature which seemed clueless, gains control of her own wills, starts to practice her emotions and define her red lines pertaining to her father figure Coppélius, whose preliminary admiration and pride had turned into erotic obsession. At the last scene, Coppélius follows her on his knees, while she pushes him down and tries to uproot his eyes, than she walks slowly, shivering, towards the unknown.
Maillot devised a whole set of moves, quite captivating, which set futuristic Coppélia aside from all us humans, but at the same time he tried not to neglect the mortals, by stretching his attention towards the theatrical expressions of the leading rolls. The costumes were very pleasing, yet Coppélia’s outfits, the nude and silver, were inspired and stood out. A meaningful contribution came from Bernard Maillot with his own musical arrangements knitted tastefully through Leo Délibes original score.
Long standing ovations ended a ballet which touched and raised moral questions concerning our presence, as we already witness the rise of alarming future actions and unknown consequences, which are lurking around the corner.