Lewisville — It’s the month of ghoulish and ghastly happenings, and LakeCities Ballet Theatre once again sinks its teeth into the annual favorite Le Ballet de Dracula. Created by artistic director Kelly Kilburn Lannin (assisted by Shanon Tate and Shannon Beacham) the company presents yet another sold-out show at the MCL Grand Theater in Lewisville. With so many incarnations of the mythic tale (which range from utterly terrifying to ridiculously humorous), how with this group of young dancers handle the story about one immortal’s quest for blood?
First, story creator Tom Rutherford brings in additional background information, including the origin of his bloodsucking tendencies and the need for brides. Marcela, Dracula’s first love and queen of his female companions, adds a new dimension to the story as well. For the most part, though, the basic structure of the story remains intact.
Late at night, a chilling group of weolas terrorizes Ratcliff (Asia Waters), who despite a necklace of garlic and a cross, succumbs to their trap. The next day, a jubilant party celebrates the betrothal of Aurelia (Amanda Evans) and Marius (Steven Loch of Pacific Northwest Ballet), complete with gypsies and a variety of folk dances. When Count Dracula (Beacham) arrives at the festivities with his new servant Ratcliff, he quickly puts Aurelia under his spell. Upset that his beloved is drawn to another man, Marius pushes Aurelia away.
Heartbroken, Aurelia returns later that evening to the party site only to find Dracula once more. She dances with him again and falls into a complete trance. Marius arrives a moment too late. As he attempts to figure out the situation, Dracula flies off to his castle with Aurelia in tow.
Act II opens in Dracula’s castle with his brides reaching out from the mist on the ground. Marcela (Kendall Galey) and the rest of the ensemble perform an eerie dance which shows Marcela’s dominance and the other brides’ hatred of her. Dracula returns with a terrified Aurelia, and as he begins to transform her into a vampire, Marius comes to the rescue. After fighting off the brides and the Prince of Darkness himself, Marius overcomes the evil and takes Aurelia away. Dracula has been defeated. Or has he?
LakeCities has found a pleasant blend of elements to present a quality presentation that is also family-friendly. Music selections from a variety of classical composers prove for the most part to be logical and seamless. Set and costume designs remain simple, yet effective, without looking cheap or thin.
Choreographically, the entire production runs seamlessly and maintains an air of appropriate professionalism. Pantomime and movement phrases that act to move the story along are clear, and dance sequences display the growing technical proficiency of the aspiring ballerinas. The ending scene with the demise of Dracula feels a little short compared to other versions, but that seems to work to the ballet’s advantage by keeping the show just under two hours, including intermission.
The most remarkable surprise, however, is the general consistency of timing and precision, elements which typically plague pre-professional companies. The dancers meticulously execute the choreography, and the pas de deuxs demonstrate elegance and grace.
While performance qualities are generally respectable all around, the ensemble dancers tend to go in and out of character. The brides play their part pretty well (although the hissing grows old after a while), but some performers lack the frightening demeanor characteristic of the undead.
Evans shines as the innocent and delicate Aurelia, and although her movement appears stiff at first, the dancing eventually takes on an effortless quality. Ruben Gerding and Ali Honchell share a humorously sweet duet during the village festivities of Act I. Gerding’s performance always lights up a room, but Honchell proves she has the chops to keep up. Beacham commands the stage as the Prince of Darkness and thankfully lacks the cheesiness and over-acting to which many onstage Draculas succumb.
Loch, as usual, is outstanding with his gravity-defying leaps and exquisitely balanced turns. While Galey excels as Marcela, her best moments come in Act I as a gypsy. So alluring is her performance quality that even when she’s not the focal point, she still pulls attention away from the main action. Another scene-stealer is Waters, as the hilarious, rodent-like human servant of Dracula.
Overall, the production has just enough to spook to make it worthy of Halloween but not so much that it becomes truly frightening for the kids. With a respectable length and excellent performances, LBT is sure to draw more audiences in the years to come.