It's A Love Story Ballet on a Local Stage, And It's for the Whole Family

The Michigan Ballet Theatre presents four performances of 'Coppelia' at Avondale High School this weekend.


Here's something Cinderella never let slip: creating a fairytale is hard work.

It's an effort that involves hundreds of people and countless hours of rehearsal but in the end it's worth it, according to Cornelia Sampson, Artistic/Executive Director of Michigan Ballet Theatre.

"This is my passion," Sampson said, "And my dancers are my pride and joy. They are so dedicated that they inspire me."

This weekend Sampson's company will bring the classic Coppelia to life with four performances at Avondale High School Performing Arts Center. 

Dolls, dance and talking wheat

Sampson selected Coppelia for one simple reason: "It's a fun story!"

The last ballet to come out of the Romantic Period, Coppelia has it all. "It's a love story with a little mystery and it's comical. It appeals to all ages," Sampson said.

Here's the story:

Coppelia is a lifesize doll made by a grumpy old toymaker, Dr. Coppelius. In the small European village where they live, people believe the doll is a real — if somewhat aloof — girl and that shaking an ear of wheat will reveal true love. (Well, it is a fairytale.)

Franz, a local boy engaged to Swanilda, becomes infatuated with Coppelia. But true love and real girl prevail and the ballet ends with a grand wedding celebration.

"It's a wonderful experience because there is so much acting involved," Sampson said. "It's a story ballet, it's for the whole family."

Local talents shine

Sharing the lead role of Swanilda are Oxford High School's Nicole Bell and 's, Madelyn Scroggie.

"It's amazing that for two hours I get to be up on that stage doing what I love," Scroggie said. "There are no words to express that feeling."

Bell, 16, has been studying ballet since age 3. Scroggie is 15 and has been training at Rochester School of Dance since age 5.

"Both girls have amazing work ethics," Sampson said. "They are here every day. They are determined to make dance their careers."

With Bell returning this summer to the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre and Scroggie returning to Joffrey Ballet Company, Coppelia may be a last opportunity to see these rising stars perform before they move on to bigger things.

Coppelia is a homecoming of sorts to Andrew Kaczmarek who began his dance training with at age 4. Now dancing with the Cincinnati Ballet, Kaczmarek has returned to Michigan Ballet Theatre to dance the role of Franz.

Sampson was also excited about the dance opportunities Coppelia presented for both her senior and junior companies. "This ballet is unique in that incorporates both classical and character dancing."

It takes a village to make a village

Behind all the beautiful tulle, makeup and hot lights is an army of workers making it happen. 

"We have had great community support," Sampson said. ", and all contributed to the stage set."

While the original Coppelia costumes were constructed by Kathy Majeski and Heather Campbell, current wardrobe mistress Jerilyn Altenberger and her assistants have been hard at work embellishing them for this performance. 

Barry Sparks from Columbia City Ballet has made the trip to Michigan to act as Stage Manager and Lighting Director. 

"He's like a light magician," Sampson said. "When I saw his lighting of Sleeping Beauty I talked him into coming to Michigan to light our Sleeping Beauty and we've been working together ever since."

And last but not least there is the MBT Guild, or, as Sampson calls them, "the right hand of the company."

"None of this would be possible without their help."

Bringing it to life

All the hard work will come to fruition this weekend at Avondale High School Performing Arts Center. The four performances will be Friday evening at 7 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. and Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m.

"I am so excited," Bell said. "We've all been working so hard and for so long. I can't wait to get it on stage and bring it to life!"

Advance ticket sales:  Adults: $16, seniors and children (12 and under): $14. Group rate for 20 or more: $12. Tickets purchased at the door: adults $18, seniors and children (12 and under): $16. For ticket information, call 248-652-3117.



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