Beneath the sunny façade, David McAllister discovers a tale of broken dreams.

David McAllister’s first principal role for the Australian Ballet was as the larky village boy Franz who becomes intrigued and then smitten with a mechanical doll in the classic family favourite Coppélia.McAllister, who is now Artistic Director of the AB, performed the part in Peggy van Praagh’s beautiful production, first staged in 1979, which the Company is currently reviving.

“I was lucky because both Steven [Heathcote, now the AB’s Ballet Master] and I learned it from Peggy in that last season that she directed in 1985, as did Fiona Tonkin [Artistic Associate and Principal Coach]. So we are all keeping the legacy of Peggy alive through our own experience,” says McAllister.

Chengwu Guo and Ako Kondo in Coppélia, photo © Jeff Busby

Coppéliais a comic ballet originally choreographed by Arthur Saint-Léon to the cheery music of Léo Delibes. Based on two Gothic stories by Prussian author ETA Hoffmann, The Sandmanand The Doll, most modern-day productions are derived from the late 19th-century version revised by Marius Petipa and Enrico Cecchetti for the Imperial Ballet of St. Petersburg.

In the ballet,...