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SALT LAKE CITY — Merging the alarming tale of a ravenous vampire with the grace and splendor of classic ballet, “Dracula” is the perfect piece to celebrate the Halloween season.
Ben Stevenson’s “Dracula" is Ballet West's premiere production of the 2011–12 season.
“Ben Stevenson is arguably one of our greatest living story ballet choreographers,” said Adam Sklute, artistic director for Ballet West. “I like to describe his ‘Dracula’ as a wild ride through the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland.
“It’s spooky and scary … but safe for our families and friends. (‘Dracula’ is) filled with spectacular classic dance, music and theater. I look at it as perfect entertainment for America’s quickly emerging second-favorite holiday.”
As eerie music of Franz Liszt drifts into the theater, a corps of ethereal vampire brides swaths the stage in fluid, phantom dance. Their movements are half finished and trance-like as they shift in complete obeisance around their vampire lord.
The first act is bathed in white, but not in a clean, fresh way. Instead, the acrylic brides are draped in tattered, wraithlike dresses accentuating their cryptic beauty. Every movement feels ominous and broken and yet is still hypnotic. Dracula is sinister and formidable as he flies across the stage and through the air, embracing his brides in effortless lifts and elegant transitions. The act ends as Dracula’s quirky servant, Renfield, leaves him with a beautiful village girl named Flora.
A warm village greets audiences as the curtains open on the second act. Cheery villagers tickle the stage in vibrant costumes and playful interactions. Juxtaposed with the imposing feel of Act 1, this act is lighthearted and tender as it urges viewers to fall in love with the innocent village peasants. The intricate dance is sophisticated, but inviting and pure.
As the act closes, Flora — now a malevolent mistress of Dracula — returns to her village to help Dracula find his next victim. Together the two vampires carry their quarry off in a carriage drawn by phantom horses.
Act 3 finds Dracula and his gauzy clutch of brides rejoicing in this latest capture within the walls of his castle. Renfield’s joy for his master is obvious in his jubilant, almost childlike romp on stage. Flora also returns for an immaculate performance across the floor and in the air.
But the true highlight is the surging interaction between Dracula and his female victim. Their movements are captivating and heart-achingly beautiful as he uses his supernatural powers to make her his own.
A handful of audacious villagers trek to the castle and a raucous battle between Dracula’s angelic demon brides and the folk of the town ensues. The elaborate scene is bewitching and exquisite. The villager’s ultimate triumph leaves the audience beaming.
The story this performance tells is entrancing, but it would be nothing without the immaculate artistry of the dancers. Their skill and beauty seep from every moment of this piece.
“My dancers have had a wonderful time sinking their teeth into this meaty choreography,” Sklute said. “‘Dracula’ is more than just theatrical entertainment and fun high jinks; it is truly a classical work that has challenged them physically and artistically.”
Sklute described “Dracula” as the alter ego of “The Nutcracker.” Both are beautiful. Both are enchanting. But only one is riddled with vampires.
If you go ...
What: Ben Stevenson’s “Dracula” at Ballet West
When: Oct. 26–Nov. 1
Where: Capitol Theatre, 50 W. 200 South
Tickets: Call 801-355-ARTS or visit www.balletwest.org
Melissa DeMoux is a stay-at-home mother of six young children who lives in West Valley City, Utah. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her adventures in motherhood at demouxfamily.blogspot.com.