Times Dance Writer

Two "Coppelia" casts on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon: two fine but very different Swanildas.

In the Saturday performance, Martine van Hamel played the role as the Lilac Fairy in disguise: regal, calm, more than a little above it all. Indeed, Van Hamel's characteristic steadiness as a dancer made those major tests of balance in the last act seem mere trifles--easily vanquished--while the broken motions of the Act II doll dance served as a big contrast to her prevailing style.

Sunday afternoon, Magali Messac unleashed a Swanilda with a strong family resemblance to the tempestuous but forlorn heroine of John Cranko's "Taming of the Shrew." With ceaseless invention and a betwitching mastery of pantomime, she got laughs, captured hearts and managed to dispatch all of the role's technical difficulties as if they were games--between her and Franz, between them and us.

An ardent, charming and empty-headed Franz, Patrick Bissell partnered both Van Hamel and Messac strongly, but provided highly problematic solo dancing on Saturday--unstretched jumps, rough terminations, messy port de bras . Sunday afternoon found him more in control, but even when he got everything right, he never made it look easy.

Victor Barbee offered a seedy and ratlike Dr. Coppelius on Saturday evening while Michael Owen made the doll maker pompous and sentimental the following afternoon--take your pick.

Cheryl Yeager danced Aurora neatly at both performances, but on Saturday a radiant, refined Susan Jaffe turned the Prayer solo into something special, unlike her perfectly decent but unremarkable Sunday afternoon counterpart, Chrisa Keramidas.

Like their respective Swanildas, conductor Alan Barker emphasized consistency on Saturday, and Jack Everly sought variety on Sunday.

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