"Coppelia" needn't be the hodgepodge of kiddies' show and dance divertissement that American Ballet Theatre makes of it. Enrique Martinez, who staged this version, credits St. Leon, choreographer of the 1870 French original, but there is scant similarity. What ABT slipped into its programs on the last two days of its Kennedy Center season has old Russian precedents as well as Cuban and American accretions.
The gentle glides and turns of the first act's "wheat" adagio might well be by one of the czar's ballet masters, but when the women in the last act are yanked from the floor onto their partners' shoulders, the movement is that of a later, acrobatic style. The mime, which could be touching as it imparts how a clever girl foils both her philandering boyfriend and an old inventor of mechanical dolls, is pure corn that belongs to no tradition.
Rebecca Wright with Kirk Peterson on Saturday's matinee as well as Sunday night, and Marianna Tcherkassky with Danilo Radojevic on Sunday's matinee were crossmatched as the young lovers. Tcherkassky and Peterson were a shade too light for the farce that surrounded them. Peterson, whose dance-acting in "Pierrot Lunaire" on Wednesday was superb, didn't really do much characterization in "Coppelia." Wright, an emphatic dancer, gave the girl's role a touch of the hussy, and Radojevic's forced dancing and frantic clowning made the boy seem wicked. Terry Orr's inventor, Frank Smith's village mayor and Alexander Minz's priest turned the older men into total fools.