Two local boys will experience the Royal New Zealand Ballet Company up close, when Coppelia opens at Napier Municipal Theatre, tonight.

The pair are set to play villagers in the opening scene, and are a "focal point" on stage for about 25 minutes.

Connor Fergusson has dance coursing through his veins - mother Diana Shand and father Ian Fergusson were both Royal New Zealand Ballet dancers - while Tom Wilson already had experience on stage, having taken a small part in last year's performance of Swan Lake.

"They are the first ones on stage who see the Coppelia doll and tell everyone that she's there - they have quite an important role, they are quite focal so they need to focus all the time and be acting," says ballet mistress Turid Revfeim, who recruited extras for the show.


After a short rehearsal at the theatre, yesterday, Connor and Tom were ready to take their place alongside the professionals.

"I went to local dance teachers, the first had one dancer and the second had one dancer, but it's more of an acting role so they need to be really confident."

While it was difficult to find young men fitting the right height, weight and age description, ballet overall was becoming more accepted for males.

"I think they watch The Secret Lives of Dancers, and especially the boys do see that outside of the tights, they are just normal guys," Ms Revfeim said.

Royal New Zealand Ballet dancer Nathanael Skelton was an important role model - born in Hastings, he also started his career as an extra with the RNZB.

"I remember [Nathanael] when I was dancing," she said. "They may not get to interact with him, but they will be up close, the children are in awe of the dancers."

Tonight's opening of Coppelia will appeal to audiences of all ages, with a charming storyline and unique choreography by Martin Vedel.

"Even if you have seen Coppelia before, you have not seen it like this."


The tale follows Jack-the-lad Franz, who becomes infatuated with Coppelia, not realising she is a life-sized doll, created by the mysterious inventor Dr Coppelius (Sir Jon Trimmer).

His feisty fiancee Swanhilde is disgusted by Franz's disloyalty, but when his life is in danger, she tricks the doctor by disguising herself as Coppelia in order to save her love. The couple marry and celebrate with their friends in the village square.

RNZB perform tonight at 7.30pm and tomorrow at 1.30pm, at Napier's Municipal Theatre.