Coppélia and My Lil Star / by Kamie Chang Kahlo

This post is lovingly dedicated to my father,
Keith Carlyle Boyce, born February 22, 1923- June 26, 2009

Coppélia has long since been my favorite ballet. I read this comic Balanchine story while listening to Delibes many times over to Estelle. So you can imagine the joy when a letter from the Pacific Northwest Ballet came to our home addressed to my Lil Star welcoming her to the cast.

Although I do not think of my little girl as just a dancer, I knew from day one that a star was born. The first day of her life, she stretched her tiny 5 lb body out as the doctor weighed her and held her head up. Yes, held her head up from her swan-like neck. She wasn't going to be ordinary, just extraordinary. Even before she was born, Estelle would dance in the womb. There were no high kicks but gentle, graceful nudges from her arms and legs that glided through the inside of my body; Just like a ballerina.


As soon as she could walk, she would dance for our guests without hesitation. Estelle has always been and will always be a shy girl but for some reason performing provides a cacoon protecting her from the outside world. There she can be as grand as an opera singer without anyone knowing her real identity, she is protected some how.



James Moore and Mara Vinson at dress rehearsal. Photo by Kam Martin of needle+thread

On the night of the Coppélia performance, I watched the 1st and 2nd acts with delight. Rachel Foster, for me, could not have been a better choice for the precocious Swanilda and the charming Coppélia. Ms. Foster's identity is seemingly protected within her dance too. Or is it? I have had the privilege to see and speak with this rebellious ballerina and she is every bit the mischevious girl that her part portrayed. She made the audience laugh out loud and cheer for more.


Rachel Foster at dress rehearsal. Photo by Kam Martin of needle+thread


PNB Students dance at dress rehearsal. Photo by Kam Martin of needle+thread

When the 3rd act began, my mother sat beside me anxiously awaiting her granddaughter's entrance. I know that she and I both wished that my father could have been there too. I was on the edge of my seat and minutes into it the Dedication of the Bells began with the Waltz of the Golden Hours. At that moment, I discovered that my daughter and her young classmates were not budding dancers; On this special night, they had arrived! No they weren't 'en pointe' but please, they were marvelous with their display of gestures only a trained ballerina could know. Their timing was impeccable, their grace astounding and each child's personality shone in the special, very individual way they smiled.

And my Lil Star, stretched her tiny 78 lb body out and held up her swan-like neck to dance.