Kevan Allen on his reimagined Coppelia

Photo: Hank Fields

Following sold out performances in London, Kevan Allen’s reimagining of the beloved classical ballet, Coppelia, returns for a nationally tour including dates at London Marylebone Theatre. Allen’s company, KVN Dance Company, hit the road from 10 April with a performance at Leicester Curve Theatre.

The show tells the story of the eccentric toy maker Dr Coppelius and the intent behind creating a life-size clockwork doll, Coppelia, and the impact this has on his relationship with the community of villagers and on Swanhilda’s relationship with her fiancé, Franz.

Allen is a West End choreographer who has worked on shows for clients as diverse as Andrew Lloyd Webber, Sir Trevor Nunn, Kylie Minogue, Tom Jones, Bryan Ferry, the Royal Shakespeare Company and Coca-Cola. Ahead of setting off on tour, we got Allen’s take on the inspiration for his reimagining of Coppelia.

Q&A with Kevan Allen

What can you tell us about your reimagined version of Coppelia?

This retelling of the ballet Coppelia utilises all forms of dance and music styles to a re-scored version of the original orchestral composition. It will appeal to everyone whether you are into classical, urban and electronic music or ballet, contemporary and street dance. The sugar-coated ballet version gets turned on its head. We delv deeper into the background of all the characters and why Dr Coppelius was so intent on creating a life-sized clockwork doll for himself. Through the story we see how the villagers’ perception changes and how he finally overcomes the prejudice and gossip that surrounds him, and he eventually becomes accepted. Is he an amazing inventor or does he possess magical powers that can cast a spell over the villagers through the beauty of his creation Coppelia?

Rosie Southall as Coppelia. Photo: Andrea Whelan

What was it that inspired you to create your take on Coppelia?

The story of Coppelia had always fascinated me from when I originally watched the ballet as a child – but I could never understand why all the villagers were so accepting of a life-sized clockwork doll being placed in a window. I was more interested in the clockwork doll than any other parts of the ballet and had always wanted to explore the background of the doll in more detail. Why was she created and why does she hold such a spell over the villagers? I love classic fairy tales and folklore and things that are a little twisted – so the story seemed to tick all the boxes! It’s a little bit dark, a little bit magical – with a lot of fun and glorious dancing – plus it takes me back to the magic I felt as a child.

How does the show compare to your previous work?

It’s a real mixture of every style of choreography that I’ve encountered throughout my career and as a great deal of my work has been for the camera, its joyous to be back in theatres again – choreographing for the stage and a live audience. I come from a very mixed background of dance training – so KVN Dance is my opportunity to incorporate everything I love about storytelling through all kinds of movement. It’s very rare to get the chance to highlight all styes of dance under one umbrella.

Micheal Downing as Dr Coppelius. Photo: Andrea Whelan

This is your first full-length ballet for your own company, KVN Dance – how does that feel?

It feels amazing but slightly daunting as well! I’ve had an amazing career working in all aspects of the industry, but this is the first time that I am totally responsible for what happens when the curtain rises with no outside influences with their own agender that I must incorporate. KVN Dance is solely my own project and it’s wonderful to have this opportunity. It’s really the world that lives in my head being replicated on stage and to be able to tell a story over an entire evening is a joy.

What’s it like to be taking the show on tour?

It’s an absolute dream for myself and the dancers. The aim of the company was always to bring dance to a wider UK audience whilst bringing existing dance audiences together, so the next step after our London run in 2021 was always to take the show on tour. This seemed like an impossible challenge, but here we are, about to embark on a 16-venue tour across the UK! It’s been a huge learning curve and yet again a completely self-funded venture for us, so it means a lot to the company as we are all so invested in the production. We only hope to inspire and give an audience the chance to escape into a fantasy world for an evening filled with wonderful costumes, music and dance.

Coppelia tours from 10 April to 30 June