Dallas — There’s so much to appreciate about Texas Ballet Theater’s (TBT) Dracula, from the elaborate set designs, costuming and special effects to the keen music selections and wonderfully nuanced choreography, it’s hard to identify any room for improvement. Yet after hearing that TBT will be collaborating with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra (DSO) for its production of Ben Stevenson’s Dracula at the Winspear Opera House, Sept. 4-6 and 11-13, one can only imagine the extent to which the ballet stands to be elevated.
As any viewer can attest, live music heightens the senses and adds a new dimension to a work, which in turn garners a bigger response from the audience. Live music also has a similar effect on the performers. “It’s a totally different experience having the music coming from in front of you as opposed to being pumped out from the speakers,” says Paul Adams who has been with TBT for nine seasons. “You don’t always know what to expect because it’s live as compared to a CD, which is set in stone. Live music can add more nuances to the performance for us because you will sometimes hear things that you wouldn’t have heard in rehearsal, and you could think of something different you could do there or sometimes you have to fill a little bit of music. It changes the whole experience for us and for the audience as well.”
This collaboration with DSO has been in the works for the past few months and is something TBT Artistic Director Ben Stevenson is particularly excited about. “The DSO is such a famous orchestra and we are really lucky to have them playing with us,” Stevenson says. “Franz Liszt’s score is such a wonderful piece of music and John Lanchbery’s arrangement is so brilliantly put together that I think DSO is going to make a wonderful addition to the production.”
Stevenson says the ballet is inspired by Bela Lugosi’s performance in Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1931) and was originally meant for Kevin McKenzie who, in 1997, was a principal dancer with American Ballet Theatre. But the idea fell through after Mikhail Baryshnikov left ABT and McKenzie took over as artistic director. So, Stevenson instead set his sights on one of his own dancers, Houston Ballet principal Tim O’Keefe, to fulfill the role of Dracula. “He is such a good artist and actor that I thought it would be a really great role for him.”
Adams, who will be playing the role of Dracula for the first time, says he has been using O’Keefe and TBT’s Lucas Priolo and Carl Coomer’s mannerisms as a template for his performance. “These individuals have brought so much to the role and I am trying to absorb every little nuance that they have for it,” Adams says. “O’Keefe has been working a lot with me and it’s great to have his experience to put into the role.”
It also helps that Dracula is one of Adam’s favorite ballets and is a role he says he has been aspiring to since his first season with the company. “It’s not your typical ballet. There’s so many mood changes in each act and there’s also the pyrotechnics, scenery and costuming. I mean when the ladies walk out in the very beginning they look like ghosts and it’s so eerie it will give you goose bumps.”
Adams isn’t the only dancer stepping into a lead role for the first time. Fourth season company member Alexandra Farber will be playing Svetlana, a role that has been perfected over time by TBT’s Leticia Oliveira and Carolyn Judson. “They both have different approaches to the role, and it has been incredible to work with them and hear what they have to say about the role and what nuances they put into it.”
Audiences can see Paul Adams and Alexandra Farber, alternating performances with other dancers, in Texas Ballet Theater’s production of Dracula Sept. 4-6 and 11-13 at the Winspear Opera House in Dallas.
» Katie Dravenstott is a freelance writer and dance instructor in Dallas. Visit her blog at www.kddance.wordpress.com