Cinematic Coppelia: A Rare Mix of Dance and Animation

Today records begin for Cobilia, A motion picture based on the classic ballet of the same name from 1870. The film, an international co-production with partners in Belgium, the United Kingdom and Germany, is a mixture of ballet and animation: a form almost never seen in cinema before.

A recent story

The film’s choreography was choreographed by Artistic Director of the National Ballet Ted Brandson. He actually made a modern version of ballet in 2008, and the feature film is based on that. Brandson: “The film is once again a completely new innovation with new music and a new interpretation of ballet.”

The original story of the nineteenth century was about the puppet doctor Dr. Copelius. “In our version, we have translated it into the present: Dr. Copelius is a plastic surgeon who promises to make everyone more beautiful, better and more attractive.”

According to Brandson, creating a choreography for a movie is very different from theater. “It’s about what you see on camera, and those are all different shots, and it’s not a continuous dance line. It takes a lot of the dancers’ ability to improvise and adapt.”

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Non-existent characters

Because film is made up of different disciplines – ballet, drama and animation – the production is very complex. An international team of designers and animators has been brought in to shape the animated characters and the environment. The trend is in the hands of no less than three directors, all of whom have their own experiences: dance filmmaker Jeff Tudor and Belgian animators Stephen de Buell and Ben Teesser.

“The combination of technology makes it very complicated for us,” says Tesseur. “We are bringing the world of ballet, the world of movies and the world of animation together in an abstract environment, because soon we will only play in front of a blue and green screen. So there are very few dancers to direct themselves. Then we also have a number of non-existent characters added in the animation after that.”

Tudor: “We try things that were last seen in Jane Kelly movies since the 1940s, so it’s a very special process.”

The main roles are performed by Franz and Zoan as soloists of the National Ballet, Daniel Camargo and Michaela de Prince. They also clearly noticed the difference with the dance on stage. “It’s a challenge because it’s not just dancing,” says de Prince.

“It’s more than just a conversation without talking. We ballerinas are very used to acting because we also have to reach the audience in the back. In the movie, a small glance is enough to understand what someone has to say.”

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Big names

The cast also includes big names such as Egon de Jong, dancer and actor Jean Kuijman, British ballet legend and TV personality Darcy Boussell. “What drew me to the project was the message: the need to change ourselves, and how it made us believe we need something like plastic surgery,” Bossil said. “I like that we use dance to convey a serious message like this.”

Until 2009 Jan Kuijman worked as a dancer in the Scapino Ballet. He found it exciting to be among the dancers of the National Ballet again ten years later. “There’s a little bit more dancing in it than they told me, but the chance to play in a movie where everything is shot with very small green, blue and yellow screens in Holland, I found that very attractive about this.”

The National Ballet will make a movie about the classic “Coppelia” ballet of the nineteenth century.

Sophie Baker

"Award-winning music trailblazer. Gamer. Lifelong alcohol enthusiast. Thinker. Passionate analyst."

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