East German dancer Thomas Vollmer's U.S. debut in Long Beach Ballet's sprightly "Coppelia" lent a splendid comic flair to the proceedings. Seen Saturday afternoon at the Terrace Theater, the St. Leon confection (re-created by artistic director David Wilcox) featured Helena Ross as Swanilda and Ake Pakarinen as her swain.
Ross, an effortless technician with lyrical arms, offered a pliant, musical response to the Delibes score, played by the Long Beach Orchestra under Patrick Flynn.
Pakarinen, an attentive partner and an amiable Franz so long as he didn't have to exert himself unduly, abandoned his character in strained-looking, often shapeless solo work. By Act III, even his partnering began to look tired.
Vollmer was busy impersonating eccentric Dr. Coppelius. With his upper body pitched forward in a nearsighted haze, Vollmer made the old fool come alive. His ludicrous "attack" mode (an impossibly wide splayed-leg stance), his silent asides at Franz's seemingly idiotic pursuit of a doll, his gleeful celebration of Coppelia's seeming transformation and his deep hurt at seeing the ruse revealed were grandly comic moments warmed by a gemutlich view of humankind. A few moments of celebratory hijinks in Act III suggested that Vollmer does indeed have a bravura side to show as well.
Statuesque Paula Vreulink, who took an unfortunate spill later in Act III, cut a figure of generously phrased, legato grace in the Prayer solo. Maricar Drilon and Chris Sircello were deft, teasing lovers in the Flirtation Dance and Orna Harari delivered a small-scale, terre-a-terre Dawn that rose only half-heartedly above the horizon.