Magazine article Dance Magazine

Dracula

Magazine article Dance Magazine

Dracula

Article excerpt

BROWN THEATER, WORTHAM THEATER CENTER, HOUSTON, TEXAS MARCH 13-23, 1997

It is a Dracula to die for. Houston Ballet's newest ballet burst into view in March. Jointly produced with Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre for $1 million--every penny of it well spent--this Dracula has to be the last word on magnificent spectacle.

As have a zillion moviemakers, cartoonists, and Halloween tricksters before him, artistic director Ben Stevenson takes his inspiration from Bram Stoker's B-grade novel, published exactly one hundred years ago. He's cleverly simplified the story, tossing out England, earnest scientists, and many subplots, the better to home in on the sinister, disquieting Count Dracula himself. All the action takes place in Transylvania, with the first and third acts set in the Count's grand and chilly castle and the second in the cozy village below. The cast is reduced to a manageable handful: Dracula, his spider-eating henchman, Renfield; and the villagers Flora, Svetlana, and Fredrick. On the other hand, Stevenson beefs up the number of wives from the original three to eighteen to make a proper corps de ballet.

The result is fascinating and fantastic. If the ballet doesn't match the novel's pervasive mood of dread, it makes more explicit the erotic undercurrent of Dracula's blood lust and the chilling dynamics of sexual domination. In a swift, dazzling scene of seduction, Dracula (Timothy O'Keefe in the opening cast) sets upon his victim. In quick succession, she recoils, freezes, then wilts in his arms, and he spins her limp body in ever more delirious arcs, her legs and arms tracing lovely spirals in the air. …

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