Upstate New York Ballets Dracula

Bethany Larson 10/30/09More articles
A City Eagle Review

At a time when vampires rule screens big and small, why not let them take the stage as well?

On Saturday, Upstate New York Ballet did just that, performing their adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula at The Landmark Theatre.

“Dracula” opened with Jonathan Harker (Marco Abdelnor) in a nightmare, surrounded by ghosts and demons. As Jonathan writhed in terror on the bed, the corps de ballet surrounded him, frantically working their arms and hands in and out above his fitfully sleeping figure.

Occasionally, individual dancers broke away from the corps to perform a solo of pirouettes and extensions, and at times the entire corps left Jonathan’s bed to cover the stage in chaotic movement.

From the moment the curtain rose, the audience knew that this was not a typical ballet.

Dracula, a dramatic tale of seduction, loss and revenge, lends itself well to classical dance. Upstate New York Ballet and choreographer Katrina Jade created their balletic adaptation of “Dracula” in 2001. Now in its second revival, Upstate brought Katrina Jade home to bring new life to the old choreography.
A native of Central New York, Jade currently resides in Los Angeles and is the founder and artistic director of Faux Pas Dance Company. A self-proclaimed “vampire fanatic,” Jade choreographed Upstate’s original “Dracula” production when Artistic Director Kathleen Rathburn approached her with the idea.

“I was all for it. I felt I had been preparing my whole life to create this,” Jade said.
For her, choreography hinges on the perfect music, which she found in Philip Feeney’s dramatic, gothic score of pulsating bass lines, screaming strings and bellowing organs.
“I listen to the music, close my eyes, and see the steps in my head. When I heard the score it started to come to life for me,” she said.

Marysa Dalton as Lucy
Like Jade, Marysa Dalton allowed the music to prepare her for the role of Lucy Westenra. A native of New Zealand, Dalton was a member of the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s corps de ballet and performed in their adaptation of “Dracula.”
“To date it was my favorite ballet. That production had blood and gore, and it was just a fun ballet to do,” Dalton said.
After moving to New York City a year ago, Dalton came to Upstate’s “Dracula” auditions in September and found out about securing the role of Lucy only a week before beginning rehearsals in Syracuse. Because of the lack of preparation time, she relied on the music.
“It just gets you in the role,” Dalton said.

Inspired choreography
Aside from the score, Jade’s choreography is inspired by the dancers and their natural capabilities.
“I take what I see them doing and create choreography from that so the movement is organic to their bodies,” she said.
Jade’s choreography juxtaposes long, classical lines and sharp, dramatic angles to satisfy both elements of classical ballet and gothic storytelling necessary for “Dracula.” These conflicting styles work well together, as the roles of those still human incorporate the more classical, and those playing the undead perform seductive, sharp choreography, evoking a sense of otherness.
The contrast of these styles is clearly seen in the choreography for Lucy Westenra (Dalton) and Mina Murray (Morgan McEwan), characters who are bitten and transformed by Dracula (Brandon Alexander). Before their encounters with the Count, both women dance with the long, fluid lines of a classical sensibility. After they are seduced and bitten, their movements become frantic, sharp and much more sensual.
Jade believes that if the dancers are comfortable with their choreography, they will focus more on their performance than getting the steps right, which is vital for this show--just ask Dracula.

The Count himself
“Dracula is one of those stories that everybody knows and everyone has their own idea of who the character is,” said Brandon Alexander, who plays the iconic role. “You just have to make it your own.”
Overall, Alexander believes that the role of Dracula has been a good fit for him.
“He’s a very easy character to dive into. You definitely get the scary, angry side of him,” Alexander said.
On stage, Alexander’s Dracula was intense and fierce in his movement, and his masculinity trumped the other male characters. Abdelnor, a technically solid dancer who partners well, played his role as Jonathan, a man under Dracula’s thrall, convincingly because he allowed Dracula to be the more masculine dancer.

Classical dancers
The characters that were easiest for Jade were the trio of Vampire Brides (Rebecca Buller, Kristen Goldrick, and Hayley Meier), who were my favorite characters of the night. They showed off their capabilities as classical technicians through their flexibility and extension, but also performed the more contemporary, sharp, sensual movement with manic grace.
Much like the Vampire Brides, Lucy (Dalton) and Mina (McEwan) adeptly showed their classical technique, their emotive capabilities, and performed the less classical choreography, proving to the audience that they are professional dancers because they can do it all, and do it well.
Upstate’s “Dracula” proved to be a fun night for dance, giving the audience both the beauty of ballet and visually interesting non-classical choreography. The blending of these styles in Jade’s choreography not only told the story of “Dracula,” but showcased the range of movement a classically trained dancer is capable of performing.

Bethany Larson is Goldring Arts Journalism Graduate Student at S.I. Newhouse School at Syracuse University. She is also a Kappa Delta Sorority Member.

CATEGORY: Performing Arts
TAGS: Bethany Larson,Goldring Arts Journalism,S.I. Newhouse School,Syracuse University,Upstate New York Ballet,Bram Stoker’s Dracula,Katrina Jade,Marco Abdelnor,Artistic Director Kathleen Rathburn,syracuse ballet,Landmark Theatre
EDITION: The Eagle

Rating: 2.7/5 (9 votes cast)

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