Living

Laugh with sweet ballet ‘Coppelia’

“Coppelia” is that rare creation — a classical ballet that doesn’t take itself too seriously. The comic ballet, about an eccentric dollmaker and his lifelike creation, will be presented this weekend by Ballet Northwest.

“It has so much humor and comedy in it,” said Josie Johnson, who is the artistic director of the company along with her husband, Ken Johnson.

“Other than ‘The Nutcracker,’ it’s probably the most enjoyable ballet for kids,” Ken Johnson said. “It is one of the most famous comedic ballets and the score has to be one of the most beautiful ballet scores in existence. It’s a fun story for kids and adults. There’s a real warmth and lightness to the show.”

“In some ballets, the plot is kind of hard to follow,” Josie Johnson added. “With this one, it’s really easy to follow the story. That’s another reason it’s great for kids.”

While the company has presented “Coppelia” several times, this is the first production of it since current company directors Ken and Josie Johnson took charge. They’ve made changes to the second act, set inside the workshop of the dollmaker, Dr. Coppelius. Now, there are parts of unfinished dolls in the workshop.

“And there’s an unfinished ragdoll that attacks Frantz, the lead male character,” Josie Johnson said.

“And a real-life Jack-in-the-box,” Ken Johnson added.

There also are new dances in the first and third acts. “We’ve continued to push the dancers, and they keep taking on the challenge to get stronger,” Josie Johnson said. “We keep challenging them every show to continue to grow. We used the third act to showcase how far these dancers have come.”

The company has a tradition of producing a ballet for Mother’s Day weekend. Another tradition seems to be that the artistic director tackles the character role of Dr. Coppelius.

In the company’s last production of “Coppelia” three years ago, then-director Bernard “Bud” Johansen played the role. This year, it’s Ken Johnson’s turn.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” he said. “I’ve had to keep on my toes to make sure that I keep up with my own role’s entrances and exits.

“It’s been fun working with the dancers on stage, and I love portraying crazy old men.”

Yes, he’s done that before, playing the grandfather in “The Nutcracker’s” party scene when he was dancing professionally.

“I had seen how hilarious Ken was as an old man,” Josie Johnson said. “So when we were casting the ballet, I convinced him to do this part.”

Online gallery

To view more photos of “Coppelia,” go to www.theolympian.com/localgalleries. ‘Coppelia’

What: Ballet Northwest stages the comic ballet about a dollmaker who wishes to bring his doll to life and a young woman who pretends to be the living doll.

When: 7:30 p.m. today and Saturday, 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday

Where: The Washington Center for the Performing Arts, 512 Washington St. S.E., Olympia

Tickets: $18.50-$28.50

More information: 360-753-8586, www.balletnorthwest.org

  Comments