There was a synchronised rush of bums flying off seats in a standing ovation for Coppélia, a truly outstanding new work from Scottish Ballet, set in Silicon Valley. Main character Swanhilda from Hoffman’s original story The Sandman is rewritten as a journalist, visiting the sterile, corporate NuLife HQ, where staff worship CEO Dr Coppélius. His famous automaton Coppélia is now an AI robot in a glossy pink bob – watching her malfunction then merge with a sea of digital clones is absolutely mesmerising. This is the largest team that Scottish Ballet has ever assembled, featuring thrilling choreography and video projections from dance filmmakers Jess and Morgs, meticulous live camera work from Rimbaud Patron and fabulous gender neutral latex costumes by Annemarie Woods.
Exploring the liminal spaces between what is human or robot and real or fake allows for some breathtaking movements – Constance Devernay-Laurence shows astonishing versatility through her lithe, enchanted and robotic gestures and Bruno Micchiardi is perfectly supple and sinister as the Patrick Bateman meets Steve Jobs dollmaker. Lockdown allowed Scottish Ballet to go deep in their development of digital storytelling. While the scrolling LED signs and big screens create a stunning, bold aesthetic, technology magnifies rather than detracts from the shapes being carved, jumped and juddered out by the incredible dancers. Close ups on hands or swirling views of rippling limbs only deepen the appreciation for the soloists and ensemble in this gorgeous, inventive sci-fi extravaganza.