Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Brilliant dancing makes ‘Dracula’ a treat

Published: October 27, 2009

With its premiere production of Ben Stevenson’s "Dracula,” the Tulsa Ballet recently offered a delicious Halloween treat to audiences at Oklahoma City’s Civic Center Music Hall. Eerily spooky sets, ghoulish costumes and the somber score of Franz Liszt’s music provided the perfect backdrop for the company’s talented performers.


In a production complicated enough to require two stage managers, the tricks — which included flying vampire brides and exploding chandeliers — went off without a hitch. But the real thrill of the performance was the spectacular dancing of the artists of the Tulsa Ballet.
Choreographed 12 years ago by Stevenson while he was artistic director of the Houston Ballet, "Dracula” begins with images of bright red blood and the shadowy interior of Dracula’s crypt. This version of Dracula’s story features his brides as primary characters, especially in the opening act.
The brides flitted back and forth across the stage with their filmy dresses floating around them like an otherworldly gray mist, while Count Dracula, danced by Alfonso Martin, appeared with an enormous bat-winged cape. Although the brides portrayed the Count’s mesmerizing hold on them, their sheer number in this section seemed at times to overpower his performance.
Of special note in the first act was the pas de trois danced by Martin with Ashley Blade-Martin and Kate Oderkirk as two of his brides. The intricately choreographed dance showed the two brides and Dracula reaching and intertwining, moving seamlessly from lifts to promenades and even down to the floor.
The second act, set in the village near Dracula’s castle, is where the most memorable dancing took place. Frederick, danced by Wang Yi, is in love with beautiful Svetlana, danced by Karina Gonzalez. Their pas de deux was a seven-minute tour de force of spectacular, technically challenging ballet. Yi and Gonzalez’s performance of Stevenson’s exquisite choreography took the audience on a dazzling journey. The movement in this lovely pas de deux swooped, glided and finally soared to an exuberant conclusion.
The final act takes place back in Dracula’s castle, where he has abducted Svetlana and enthralled her to be his next bride. The fight scene in which Frederick and the other villagers come to rescue her was particularly well done. The stage was filled with action, giving the appearance of chaos, but it was perfectly executed dance mayhem that led to Dracula’s demise.
Other outstanding characters in the ballet included Flora, danced by Soo Youn Cho, and Renfield, danced by Mugen Kazama. Kazama’s portrayal of Dracula’s favorite minion was both creepy and charismatic, and very well danced. Bravo to the Tulsa Ballet for making its way down the turnpike to share its artistry with Oklahoma City audiences.
— Kathleen Redwine

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