Saturday, October 11, 2008

Culture Cat: Dracula

First, full disclosure: I love Dracula
It might be my favorite ballet ever. 
Last night (opening night) I saw it at the Capitol Theater in the Riffe Center for the third time (I saw it in 2006 and 2007). While each outing has been superb, last night's was truly sublime, a perfect marriage of cast, choreography, story and emotion. 
The three leads--Dracula (Jimmy Orrante, the original Dracula), Mina (Jaime Dee) and Lucy (Carrie West) I have seen perform their roles before. But last night they were beyond perfect. They truly embodied their roles to the point of brilliance. Dracula and Mina's aching beautiful pas de deux in the second act is the high point of the evening. The ballet, as a whole, is very athletic, but here Mina actually supports Dracula and leads him in several places, demonstrating the evolution of gender roles that Stoker plants in his novel. Last night I didn't want the number to end. 
Carrie West as Lucy transforms from coquettish society girl to uninhibited vampire brilliantly, especially in the engagement party scene, where she arrives with her hair loose and wild and in a bright scarlet dress. 
One of the other notable things about this ballet is the number of male leads. There's Dracula, of course, but also: Jonathan Harker (danced by Bryan Jenkins), Mina's fiance and later husband; Dr. Jack Seward (Adam Hundt), the sanatorium doctor and failed suitor of Lucy; Renfield (Jeff Wolfe), Seward's patient and Dracula victim/crony, and Dr. Van Helsing (Hisham Omardien), the "scientist of the new century" who leads the men in the fight against Dracula. 
All of them, particular Jenkins, who is new to BalletMet, were wonderful in their athletic dancing and emotional range.
My favorite male dancer, however, was Jackson Sarver, who danced Lord Arthur Holmswood, Lucy's finace. Sarver, who has been with the company for five years, did the best job of the night. When he first enters he  is a confident lover, who proposes to Lucy and is accepted with joy. The next time we see him, he is startled by his love's transformation at the hands of Dracula. At the end of Act I, he falls into despair as Lucy dies before him. He was brilliant to watch, both in his dancing and his acting abilities. In Act II, his love for Lucy is so strong that he rejoices to see her undead form in the crypt; yet he finds the strength to finally kill her.  I was entranced by his performance from beginning to end. 
West and Dee are my two favorite female dancers at BalletMet, and both of them do wonderful jobs with this material. I imagine that since they have danced these roles so often that they are comfortable with the choreography and can give themselves over to the emotion of the story. Last night was the best I had ever seen them. 
If you get a chance you simply must see this production. It runs through October 18 (next Saturday) and then BalletMet will be retiring it from their active repertoire (but not forever, I hope!). It is a wonderful experience for both veteran dance fans, and serves as a wonderful introduction to our fabulous company for novices. 

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