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Monday, October 24, 2011

Ballet Pensacola's Dracula

My brother and I attended the 7PM Saturday performance of Dracula, performed by Ballet Pensacola. It was a fresh take on the story and beautifully choreographed by the Ballet's Artistic Director, Richard Steinert. It began with a trap door opening in the stage floor. From this void, two "creatures" (Dustin Simmons and Kristopher Williams) extended limbs that appeared to be multi-jointed and literally coming to life from some long-dormant state. The effect of Lance Brannon's lighting on their musculature was dramatic in contrast to an otherwise dark stage. Their dance was strong and masculine, but graceful and modern. Throughout the production -- as if the creatures' evolution never progressed beyond the demon realm, their movements were always weirdly contorted. This was a wonderful counterpoint to the delicate, classical ballet danced by Kristen Springer and Kayla Bartlett in their roles as Lucy and Mina.

Following the creatures' emergence, "bats" crawled out of the open space in the floor until thirteen filled the stage. The bats, Ballet Pensacola's corps, were ingeniously costumed by Christine Duhon. Their sleek hair was parted in the middle; their leotards were patterned in an op-art check like something from an Escher drawing and had sleeves that were puffed above the elbow. They wore large pointed black belts and slim black trousers that flared from the knees. According to the choreography, the bats movements looked mechanical or flowing a la classical ballet and the full sleeves or the fluid hems helped create that impression. Ranks of bats dove in and out of each other, filling the stage. It was wonderful.

Dracula's brides were Goth chicks with cherry red hair and black skirts that hung in funereal strips over black leggings. Tyler Day's Dracula was lithe, dominant, and seductive. I loved the pas de trois where Samuel Joseph Mounce's Harker danced to save Mina from Dracula. Dracula's pas de deux with Lucy, culminating with his bite was sensual and romantic. Later, the creatures' attack on Lucy was an altogether different dance, a choreographed act of brutality. This was a very interesting ballet, by turns sensual or perverse, romantic or violent.

A dominant feature of Lance Brannon's set design was a steampunk conglomeration of cogs and wheels. The trapdoor led to an underground mausoleum with coffins and oven-style cypts like you see in New Orleans' multi-tombs. The storyline broke from Stoker's novel, but I won't tell you how -- just in case they perform it next year. I hope Ballet Pensacola will repeat Dracula as a Halloween tradition, just as The Nutcracker is for Christmas. If so, don't miss it.

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