CEDAR CITY — Local dancers ages four to adult will tell the love story of two villagers, their small town and an eccentric doll maker in Cedar City Junior Ballet’s full-length comic ballet “Coppelia,” which runs Friday and Saturday at the Heritage Center Theater in Cedar City.
In addition to being this year’s spring performance, “Coppelia” was the community ballet company’s first full-length production 14 years ago, making this year’s production of this funny and charming ballet a sentimental journey for the Cedar City Junior Ballet’s artistic director, Lise Mills, and many of the company’s performers.
Although the company has performed “Coppelia” several times over the past 14 years, this production holds special meaning. At the beginning of the year, Cedar City Junior Ballet opened a ballet studio – another dream realized, much like the company’s first production of “Coppelia.” Many past Cedar City Junior Ballet performers will join the cast this year, as well as some children of cast members of the company’s first performance of “Coppelia.” In many ways, Mills said she feels that this year’s annual ballet has brought the company full circle.
Joining this year’s cast as a guest performer is North Elementary Principal Raymond Whittier. This is not Whittier’s first time on the “Coppelia” stage, having played the role of Burgomaster in a previous performance, a role which he will reprise this year. Several years ago, his daughters were dancing in “Coppelia,” and his wife was helping as a volunteer. With the encouragement of his wife, Whittier got involved. He said:
Lise needed help, so I volunteered. I’m not nearly so talented as my girls are at this, so I struggle to remember all the cues and dance steps. I’m so impressed with the strength and agility of all the dancers. Those who think ballet is easy have never really been exposed to the rigor, discipline, and endurance that the dancers have to undergo.
Leisl Whitaker, last seen as Puck from Cedar City Junior Ballet’s production last year of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” will perform the lead role of a clever and jealous Swanilda. Ballet dancer and instructor Sterling Young will play the lead role of Franz, Swanilda’s fiancé with a fickle heart. Dr. Coppelius, the town’s lonely and eccentric doll maker, will be played Brandon Grayson.
Many of this year’s cast have a story to tell about their experience with both the “Coppelia” ballet and Cedar City Junior Ballet. Jami Lyn Niles is busy sewing peasant costumes for this year’s production and bringing her children — 8-year-old Allan and 6-year-old Elizabeth — to rehearsals. It is a trip down memory lane for Niles. She was one of Swanilda’s friends and danced the Prayer Solo in the original company production of “Coppelia.” She also helped sew costumes that year. A minor in dance at Southern Utah University, Niles said Mills was one of her first dancing mentors.
“Lise puts her heart and soul into these productions, and they always turn out awesome because of it,” Niles said. “It’s a great opportunity for my kids to be able to dance with her, and some day, I hope to dance with her again. Maybe next year I’ll dance with my kids.”
Niles and Whitaker are just two of the stories that can be told of how Cedar City Junior Ballet and “Coppelia” in particular have touched lives. As more than 50 performers take the stage on Friday and Saturday, they will be doing what they love – dancing and telling a story that Cedar City Junior Ballet hopes will make its audience laugh and smile.
- What: “Coppelia” performed by Cedar City Junior Ballet
- When: April 8-9, 7:30 p.m.
- Where: Heritage Center Theater, 105 N 100 East, Cedar City
- Admission: Tickets are $10 and may be purchased at the Heritage Theater Box Office. Children under 4 are not permitted.