From Koussevitsky to the Pillow: Berkshire Ballet’s Coppélia (1977-1978)

Following the success of its popular Nutcracker, the early Berkshire Ballet grew into further creative opportunities with the staging of other full length ballet productions.

In the September 1977, the company put on the classic comedy Coppélia, in 3 performance dates on the stage of Berkshire Community College’s Koussevitsky Arts Center. Under the helm of founder and Artistic Director Madeline Cantarella Culpo, Berkshire Ballet’s production was staged by the famed Igor Youskevitch , and further brought to life with set designs from celebrated architect and mural artist Thurston Munson

Starring roles were danced by guest artists from the Boston Ballet Durine Alinova (a former student of Culpo) and David Drummond, along with Francis Patrelle, who had appeared as lead in the company’s production of Petrouchka the previous year.

The result proved joyous. So much so, the company was invited to present it again the following season- this time, at Jacob’s Pillow.

Though the oldest internationally acclaimed Summer dance festival was just minutes down the road from Berkshire Ballet’s headquarters, it was a big step to travel for the emerging company. This marked the first occasion that Jacob’s Pillow had ever engaged a local dance company in its programming.

“Local audiences have for several years supported the company enthusiastically, but when the dancers are placed in the setting of an internationally famous cultural center such as the Pillow, what then?” mused the Berkshire Eagle’s Richard Happel who had chronicled the company as dance critic since its earliest moments. “We’ve followed their progress for so long that to write those words would have been excruciating. Well, thanks heavens, they’ve spared us all that. They produced a brilliant evening of Coppélia … a capacity crowd at the Pillow last night was lavish with their applause.”