Lewisville — LakeCities Ballet Theatre (LBT) once again captivated audiences with its dynamic dancing, spooky special effects, strong storytelling and dramatic costuming and make up during the company’s annual showing of Le Ballet de Dracula at the Medical Center of Lewisville Grand Theater last Friday evening. Over the last decade Dracula has become one of LBT’s most popular ballets thanks in large part to Art Director Tom Rutherford’s imaginative tale and creative stage design along with LBT Artistic Director Kelly Kilburn Lannin’s riveting choreography and musical selections which included Bela Bartok, George Enesco, Feeney, Nevi Jarvi, Kilar, Nordmann, Radulovick, Dimitri Shostakovich, Sibelius and Johann Strauss.
Loosely based off the story by Bram Stoker, LBT’s Dracula depicted the love triangle between Marius, Aurelia and Dracula in two cleverly conceived acts. In the first half Aurelia’s family and friends along with the villagers, Romanians and gypsies residing in their small Transylvanian town come together to celebrate the engagement of Aurelia (Carley Denton) and Marius (guest artist Steven Loch of Pacific Northwest Ballet). Halfway through the festivities Dracula (Shannon Beacham) and his minion Ratcliff (Asia Waters) crashed the party with the intention of luring Aurelia away to make her one of his vampire brides.
Choreographers Lannin, Shanon Tate and Shannon Beacham used the specialized dance sequences to showcase the dancers’ proficiency in various dance styles, including soft shoe, pointe, jazz, modern and even folk dance. The character shoes worn by the Romanians and villagers enhanced their rhythmic foot-stomping and quick shuffle steps, which they paired with subtle arm movements and sharp formation changes. The gypsies, led by Denise Clarkston, used a mix of modern and jazz vocabulary i.e. loose hip movements, chest releases and flirty hand gestures to convey their mischievous nature.
Aurelia’s friends (Julie Fenske, Tristan Finn, Carly Greene, Lauren Hunter, Michelle Lawyer and Kristina Lorelli) had the most technically challenging dance section with intricate pointe work and traveling patterns that tested both the dancers’ stamina and memory all the while maintaining the musical uniformity we have come to expect from the company.
The maypole dance remains a crowd favorite. The audience clapped along as a dozen dancers ducked and weaved around one another carrying bright-colored streamers that were attached to a 15-foot pole sitting center stage.
Noticeably absent from this year’s performance was the musically enchanting pas de deux between Lawyer and guest artist Dan Westfield. Instead Hunter and Lorelli relied on Aaron Dolan’s sturdy frame to support them as they executed various body dips, leg lifts and pirouettes in a simple yet solid pas de trois.
A natural storyteller at heart, Denton was capable of conveying many emotions with just one look in her role as Aurelia. She showed her adoration for Marius through soft smiles and shy glances and her terror of Dracula with her wide eyes and trembling lips. Her flexibility and quality of movement continues to improve as was evident in her higher arabesques and sharper turning sequences.
Loch once again entranced audiences with his gravity-defying grande jetes, wicked fast pirouettes and natural charm. His acting skills have improved over the last year, which was most noticeable in the fight scene with Beachman later on in the show. With such strong individual performances by Denton and Loch viewers were surprised when the couple appeared to struggle a bit in their pas de deux. Slippery hand holds and stiff body positions caused certain partnering skills such as the fish bowl dip into an arabesque hold to lack some fluidity and flexibility. But like true professionals the couple pushed through to the end where Denton nailed her six assisted pirouettes.
Beacham showed why he is chosen to play the prince of darkness year after year with his over-the-top facials displaying his monstrous fangs, predatory walks and perfectly timed cape flicks. The final scene of the opening act where Beacham carried a sleeping Denton to the top of the Pergola as his almost 15-foot long wings unravel is always a heart pounding moment.
The mood changed drastically in the second half thanks to the dim lighting, smoke machines and eerie sound effects. As music that evokes a beating heart started up, hands abruptly appeared out of the mist coating the stage. Dressed in simple white gowns, tattered veils and sporting long fangs, the 15 brides of Dracula rose up to perform a hauntingly beautiful adagio number complete with loose-limb walks, contracted torsos and soundless jumps. Julia Tiller (Marcela) led by example with her fierce footwork and ghoulish expressions.
Beacham and Loch’s timing was spot on during the physical exchanges in the final fight scene, and Beacham and his brides’ final breathes before dropping to the ground at the very end were met with generous applause.
» Katie Dravenstott is a freelance writer and dance instructor in Dallas. Visit her blog at www.kddance.wordpress.com