See more of the story

The Twin Cities Ballet of Minnesota took a meta-theatrical approach on Mother's Day weekend to its interpretation of "Coppélia," the 19th-century French ballet by composer Léo Delibes.

In "Coppélia in Paris" at Burnsville's Ames Center, choreographers Denise and Rick Vogt put a modern spin on Arthur Saint-Léon and Marius Petipa's earlier choreography, and went behind the scenes of a Parisian ballet company staging the classic "Coppélia."

TCB's version, which premiered in 2017, is set in the 1920s and centers on love triangles, egos, intercompany politics and mistaken identities.

The original ballet, with its libretto by Charles-Louis-Étienne Nuitter partially based on an E.T.A. Hoffmann story, is considered a comic ballet but includes some rather dark elements like the evil inventor who wants to steal the soul of the main character, Franz, to make his lifelike mechanical doll come to life.

"Coppélia in Paris" was quite a bit less sinister. Rather than a maniacal toymaker, the story's main antagonist was the Ballet Master, performed with just the right amount of cringe by the able Tyler Piwowarczyk. The Ballet Master lusted after Claudette, a guest dancer with the company, danced by Michelle Ludwig, who brought a crisp panache to the vain character.

Parts of the first act and much of the third act were essentially dress rehearsals, where the dancers performed sections of the fictional company's "Coppélia" for a group of flapper ballet patrons. This allowed for different groupings of student dancers to be featured, but often halted the narrative.

The second act, taking place in a prop and costume storage room full of mechanical dolls that come to life, was the most exciting. That act offered fun moments of real dancers moving mechanically to a disquieting degree. One young dancer, Kelly Hylandsson, played a mannequin with such limber floppiness that you almost didn't believe there was a real human behind the movements.

Lisandro Neris, who played Francois/Franz, made an impressive showing. Originally from Puerto Rico, Neris is in his first year with TCB, and brought a vibrant athleticism and strength to his dancing, while layering in the character's charm, as well. Opposite Neris was Natalie Rossi, in her ninth and final season with the company, playing Sylvie/Swanilda. Rossi exhibited grace and control, as well as vulnerability in her acting.

Ultimately, TCB's adaptation did create a venue to showcase both the chops of the professional company and the student dancers that were part of the show. It worked best in moments where the dancing was focused on the narrative.