Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Houston Ballet Delivers Lavish 'Dracula,' Marking Novel's 100 Years

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Houston Ballet Delivers Lavish 'Dracula,' Marking Novel's 100 Years

Article excerpt

In an era when vampires turn up in magazine ads, comic strips, and movies, Houston Ballet is celebrating the grandfather of them all, "Dracula."

Marking the 100th anniversary of Bram Stoker's gothic thriller, artistic director Ben Stevenson has staged a three-act production of "Dracula" that mixes the poetic-fantastic mood of romantic ballet with the high technology of modern staging. The massive $500,000 production, which was co-produced with Pittsburgh Ballet Theater, is expected to travel widely when the Houston company begins touring. Its first showing elsewhere will be in Los Angeles in July.

Stevenson's notion of a danceable "Dracula" had been in his mind for several years (it is not the only "Dracula" ballet). But the concentrated effort took 18 months, during which music was commissioned, enormous and complicated sets were created, and lavish costumes designed. The world premiere of "Dracula," which opened March 13 and continues through March 23 in Houston's Wortham Theater Center, has proved to be a major box office draw. A ninth performance was added by demand. The ballet makes use of a mere sliver of Stoker's epistolary novel, Stevenson choosing to keep his sleek vampire in and out of his ruined castle high in the mountains of Transylvania. The choreographer sees Dracula as a complex figure: a once-elegant aristocrat whose ghoulish blood-siphoning practices are indicated but not played up, and whose mesmeric sex appeal helps him attract the village beauties. Stoker's Count Dracula made do with a handful of brides at home while he wandered the world for other conquests. But Stevenson kept his villain at home, seeing the possibilities of a string of wives, in fact, a corps de ballet. The count is danced nimbly and well-acted by principal Timothy O'Keefe. Joining his throng is the red-haired Flora, delivered to the count by a sinister black coach with spectral horses. The scene is as fiercely chilling as the arrival of the evil Carabosse in "The Sleeping Beauty. …

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