When helping set up the Oregon Ballet Theatre schedule, Peter Franc saw red for Valentine's Day — as in, the bloodsucking Dracula.
"I thought, 'Why not?' Let's do something new and present Dracula for Valentine's," said Franc, the interim artistic director. "It's not your typical-looking love story, but at its core that's what this ballet is still about. So, it's really very fitting."
"Dracula" stages Feb. 19-26 at Keller Auditorium. It's a full-length work originally created by Ben Stevenson to mark the 100th anniversary of Bram Stoker's iconic 1897 novel. Franz Liszt's gothic works, arranged by John Lanchbery, set the perfect haunting tone, which the OBT Orchestra performs live. "Dracula" actually started as a stage play, starring Bela Lugosi in 1924.
Says OBT: "While keeping with the tradition of a 19th century classical ballet, the production has the feel of a Broadway show, with awe-inspiring theatrics, vampire brides soaring through the air, and an exploding chandelier. At the heart of all the spectacle is glorious dancing, requiring both technique and artistry — a demanding blend which OBT's dancers uniquely possess."
Playing the title role will be soloist Christopher Kaiser and company artist Colby Parsons. Parsons describes their character depictions as "fire and ice," as he plays a calmer and cooler Dracula and Kaiser ramps up the aggressiveness.
"He's very much more a vicious monster for more of the time than I am," Parsons said. "I'm a more composed vampire. We talk to each other constantly about what to do with the characters, and help each other, trying to find balance between his fire and my ice."
Said Kaiser: "I told him if we both came together we'd be the perfect Dracula."
The one bite victim in "Dracula" is Flora, played by Eva Burton in Kaiser's cast and Hannah Davis in Parsons' cast. "There are a lot of other attempted bites," Parsons joked.
No word, yet, on whether (fake) blood will be involved, but there'll definitely be the insinuation of it.
Because it's ballet, the dancers use mime in their acting.
"It's definitely a very different approach to getting into this character," Parsons said. "It's a weird juxtaposition sometimes because you have this feral hungry monster, and then you have to transition into being a very genteel gentleman personality
"'Am I in control of the hunger, or am I controlled by it?'"
Kaiser said: "My character is really aggressive with his brides. … It is so much fun to get lost in this character. When I first started out, I was a slave to (rhythm) counts and trying to hit marks, to do the same thing and be on the music. Now I find it's coming within me, the character developing without having to think too much."
The role of "Dracula" is different because Parsons and Kaiser and other men dance with boots on.
"As Dracula, it's less like what we think of as clean and classical ballet," Parsons said. "It is more physical, more visceral in some ways. You're spread out and then pulled in tight. There are sort of these stretched out movements that turn into quick phrases. A lot of back and forth.
"There is a lot of partnering and lifting. It's not exactly a common type of ballet partnering. You're more wrapped up with your partner, always very close to each other, or taking a breath apart only to come back close to each other."
Said Kaiser: "The role is heavy on the acting and steps, all the dancing. It's neoclassical. The movement is a little bit more sweeping."
It's a fun ballet, the two Draculas say.
"I have a lot of non-dancer friends asking me for tickets and they've never asked for tickets," Kaiser said.
For more: www.obt.org.
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