In staging the "My First Ballet" series English National Ballet and English National Ballet School had two objectives: to introduce children to ballet and to give students and young dancers stage experience. Each year they take a popular ballet and present its essentials with a spoken narrative. This year the company and school chose Coppélia and I took my former ward who is the nearest I have to a daughter together with her 3 year old son, Vladimir, to see it at the Peacock Theatre on 13 April 2014.
We three loved it though perhaps for different reasons. Vladimir pronounced it "awesome". When his mum asked him what he enjoyed most he replied "the jumping". His mum was happy that he was quiet and enthralled. When Dr Coppelius introduced himself as an inventor I launched on a forensic reverie. Daniel Kraus who danced Dr Coppelius reminded me so much of the hopefuls who patronize my pro bono clinic or attend my Northern inventors' clubs Was putting Coppélia on show an enabling disclosure? I asked myself. From the law of patents my mind wandered to the criminal law. When Franz and his rowdy pals roughed up Dr Coppelius after their stag night and caused hum to drop his key I thought about the distinction between common assault and ABH. As Swanilda's hen party ransacked he old boy's laboratory I thought of the law of trespass and conspiracy. And when Franz climbed up the ladder I was reminded of R v Collins  QB 100. "How about a ballet based on the facts in Collins?" I thought to myself. An amorous young man ascending a ladder to a young girl's bedroom clad only in socks. My pupil master's wife who worked for the Courts Service was in court for the appeal. She told me she was in stitches throughout the hearing and dropped books on the floor deliberately so that she hide her guffaws from the Lord Justices as she retrieved the reports Surely Collins is a story screaming for a choreographer.
Why did these thoughts spring to mind? Perhaps it was because I had seen a trial of the marsupial variety in The Winter's Tale the night before (see "Royal Ballet 'The Winter's Tale'" 14 April 2014). Whereas The Winter's Tale ran on and on and on this version of Coppélia was just the right length. The kids got the story and a proper taste of choreography as well as some excellent dancing. Michelle Chaviano was a lovely Swanilda. A convincing actor as well as an attractive dancer, her indignation at the sight of Franz (Jordan Bautista) eyeing up the doll (Olivia Lindon) was palpable. All the dancers delighted us, particularly Sophia Elbishlawi, the youngest dancer, who was raised to shoulder height in the last scene and had such a winning smile for us at the end.
I had promised Vlad an ice cream subject to the condition that he would be good. As he skipped along Long Acre to the gelateria I asked him whether he would like to dance like Franz. "Oh yes" he replied. At the very least English National Ballet and the English National Ballet have sparked a love of ballet in the boy. Maybe they have also inspired a dancer.