On a windy October evening just two weeks before Halloween, Texas Ballet Theater and the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra offered up a full-scale production of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, complete with pyrotechnics and aerial acrobatics at the beautiful Bass Performance Hall in Fort Worth.
ACT ONE: THE CRYPT OF DRACULA’S CASTLE
The curtain opens to reveal the crypt of Dracula’s castle; a dark grey, Gothic arch-laden grand hall, with old cracked walls dripping with spider webs that dissipate into a fog billowing down and over the edge of the stage. Moments into the production Dracula is revealed in an indistinguishable doorway. From the moment he spread his arms wide, Dracula’s magnificent cape became the center piece of Stevenson’s Act One choreography.
The eighteen wives of Dracula soon entered the crypt in frayed and tattered white gowns. These identical ghostly (with heavily painted white faces) women essentially run and drip randomly about the stage with their arms extended before them like zombies until they eventually amalgamate into classical corps de ballet structured lines. The dancers exquisitely execute uniform movement and carefully timed cannons commonly associated with classical Petipas ballets. Bravo to the artistic staff who rehearsed these women into perfection. (The playbill doesn’t clarify which of the three, so I’ll mention you all: Anna Donovan, Tim O’Keefe or Li Anlin).
Dracula performs a trio with two zombie brides who assist him with the seduction of a village girl named Flora (Angela Kenny), who he needs to help him procure a virgin bride. When the seduction is complete, Dracula leaves Flora lying on the floor as a swarm of hungry zombie brides flock to her body and the curtain closes. Kenny did an outstanding interpretation of the role of Flora. Her technical abilities are equally matched with natural flare for dramatics.
ACT TWO: THE VILLIAGE
The story continues in a happy little village just down the hill from Dracula’s castle, where the townspeople all know he lives. Svetlana (Carolyn Judson) and Frederick (Jiyan Dai) are in love and want to marry each other. The entire village dances in honor of the couple, once again proving Texas Ballet Theater produces impeccable ensemble work on par with the great international ballet companies like The Kirov Ballet and Royal Ballet of London.
The young couple proudly display their adoration for one another with a touching grand pas de deux. Here is where Ben Stevenson shines as a master choreographer. His pas de deuxs are always intricate, nuanced and technically challenging for the artists. Carolyn and Jiyan worked very well together. His partnering was trustworthy, allegro work was crisp, and his turns were mostly flawless. Carolyn’s gorgeous arched feet, elegant long lines and sweet, charming disposition coupled with superb technique leaves no room for doubt you’re watching a prima ballerina at her best.
ACT THREE: THE BEDROOM OF COUNT DRACULA
The final act takes place in Dracula’s bedroom where he has plans to bring the new virgin bride. Before Svetlana’s dramatic rescue by Innkeeper (Timothy O’Keefe) and fiancé Frederick (Jiyan Dai) a whirlwind of zombie brides move about the stage almost exactly as they did in act one. Flora (Angela Kenny) effortlessly flies in on aerial wires and continues to perform with artistic flare and grace. Svetlana’s rescue by Frederick and the Innkeeper was somewhat frantic and ended with a massive pyrotechnic explosion where Dracula’s body was exposed to sunlight. This was the perfect, high intensity, dramatic ending for what turned out to be a two and a half hour ballet production. Go see it!