Coppélia to work its magic for Canberra kids

Storytime Ballet: Coppélia. Music by Léo Delibes. Libretto by Charles-Louis-Étienne Nuitter. Based upon two stories by E. T. A. Hoffman. Choreography: adapted by David McAllister from the original 1870 version by Arthur Saint-Léon, revised by Marius Petipa (1884) and Enrico Cecchetti (1894). Additional choreography Peggy van Praagh. Devised and directed by George Ogilvie. Music performed by Orchestra Victoria. The Australian Ballet. Canberra Theatre Centre January 17 to 19, 2019.

Do you have a budding ballerina in your family? The third production in the Australian Ballet's Storytime Ballet series for children will soon be dancing its way to the Canberra Theatre.

The Australian Ballet's <i>Storytime Ballet: Coppélia </i>with Dayne Boothe, left,  and Sean McGrath.   Photo: Jeff Busby

The Australian Ballet's Storytime Ballet: Coppélia with Dayne Boothe, left, and Sean McGrath.   Photo: Jeff Busby

One of the most popular works in the repertoire, the comic ballet Coppélia with music by Léo Delibes, has been adapted by the Australian Ballet's artistic director, David McAllister, into a child-friendly version.

The ballet master for this leg of the show's tour is former Canberran Paul Knobloch, who had an international career in dance, including dancing at the Paris Opera with Béjart Ballet Lausanne.

As with the other Storytime Ballet productions, this Coppélia is aimed at children aged three and up, and they are encouraged to come dressed in ballet-inspired costumes and dance along with the performers.

"It's about 45 to 50 minutes long," Knobloch says - just long enough to suit the attention span of younger chldren, "which is nice".

Narrating this Coppélia is the mysterious magician Dr Coppelius. During a village's preparations for the Harvest Festival, his daughter Coppélia causes a quarrel between Swanilda and her fiancé Franz when the young man becomes infatuated with Coppélia. Both he and Swanilda separately decide to sneak into Dr Coppelius's house to find out more about the mysterious girl. But Coppélia is not what she seems - and what will happen when Dr Coppelius returns home?

A scene from The Australian Ballet's <i>Storytime Ballet: Coppélia</i>.  Photo: Jeff Busby

A scene from The Australian Ballet's Storytime Ballet: Coppélia.  Photo: Jeff Busby

The production uses 15 costumes from one of the company's earlier main-stage presentations of the ballet. The music was recorded for the production by Orchestra Victoria.

Knobloch says the dancers have been chosen from graduates of the Australian Ballet School and from outside.

The cast usually perform three shows a day, and change their roles around during the tour.

"There are a lot of performing opportunities for them," he says.

This is the fourth year of Storytime Ballet. The previous productions were adaptations of two works by Tchaikovsky: Sleeping Beauty (twice) and The Nutcracker.

Former Canberran Paul Knobloch, a dancer and choreographer, is ballet master on the tour. Photo: Supplied

Former Canberran Paul Knobloch, a dancer and choreographer, is ballet master on the tour. Photo: Supplied

Although he is no longer dancing in main-stage productions, Knobloch, 41, is enjoying his new offstage work. He likes working on the productions for children and hopes they will entertain young audiences and perhaps inspire some of them to study dance.

"Who knows, they might be future stars of The Australian Ballet," he says.

Knobloch has been ballet master for three years with Storytime Ballet, and has worked on regional tours as well as doing some choreography for the Australian Ballet. Next year he will become a ballet master for main-stage productions.

"It will be a great experience to be doing more," he says.

He says he is interested in creating more choreography, rather than doing any more performing at present.

"I haven't said no to coming back at some stage in a small project. I don't think I can do big productions any more," he says.

But he's keeping busy with his varied work, which also includes teaching as a way of giving something back and passing on what he's learned. He returns regularly to where he began studying ballet, the Canberra Dance Development Centre.

"You shouldn't forget your roots and where you started," he says.