Gregory G. H. Rihn (milwaukeesfs) wrote,
Gregory G. H. Rihn

Milwaukee Ballet: "Dracula"--revived

We began our Halloween holiday on Friday, October 28th, by attending the Milwaukee Ballet's performance of Michael Pink's "Dracula". This was a revival of the 2005 production (reviewed herein in my entry of Oct. 26th, 2005). Again, we enjoyed the ballet very much, although our observations were somewhat different from the first time around.

The Friday night cast featured Joshua Reynolds as Dracula, Petr Zahradnicek as Harker, Nicole Teague as Lucy, Susan Gartell as Mina, Ryan Martin as Van Helsing, Denis Malinkine as Renfield, And David Hovhannisyan as Quincy.

There seemed to have been some adjustments to the score (composer Philip Feeney was in the audience Friday night), as some effects, like the erratic knocking sounds in Harker's nightmare sequence, were more obtrusive, and there were parts, such as offstage choral voices, that I hadn't recalled from before. I thought these were generally positive developments although some of the special effects were a bit on the loud side.

Choreography in the villager's dance in act one was significantly changed, making them less sinister and more desperate seeming. Their mourning at the death of the baby and exulting at the death of the wolf, and almost palpable fear at the entrance of "Dracula's coachman" made them more human. Georgie says that Dracula's attack on Harker is one of the best male-male pas de deux in ballet, and I, and other critics, are inclined to agree.

The "tea dance" sequence in the second act is still too long: once it's been established that Lucy is the belle of the ball and has several men on her string, what's the point of the rest of the section? Admittedly, Pink did liven things up with some of the stage business he's so good at: a diva signing autographs, a waitress sneaking a glass of champagne; but it still seemed a long wait for the storm to break and Dracula to enter. Once that happens, the sequence where Dracula stalks unseen among the hotel guests, cuts Mina out of the crowd, and preys on her, was wonderfully creepy, helped by the lighting where he is continually in shadow, and the light is only on Mina.

There are other wonderful moments in the concluding sections: Lucy rising from the dead and attacking included a bit where Teague, one of the smallest of the principal dancers, leaps almost onto the shoulders of one of the tall men and seems to bear him to the ground. Dracula's cult of vampires' decadent dance celebrating their master's approach can be seen to be a parody of the genteel party dance of the second act. Dracula's defeat and dissolution is simply but elegantly done, a perfect bit of stage magic.

The dancing was flawless, and all the principals and company very fine. It must be admitted that Joshua Reynolds does not have quite the presence and "edge" of David Hovhannisyan, who was one of the dancers that created the role in 2005, and danced it in the Thursday and Saturday performances, but Hovhannisyan is a more experienced dancer and Reynolds may well match him in time.

As a side note, although it's not unusual to see a lot of girls and young women, many of them dance students, at a ballet performance, this evening it seemed that there were many more than usual, quite a few seeming to have come as a group, and who were very vocal in cheering the cast at the curtain call. Perhaps "Twilight" is having a positive effect on ballet attendance? Anyhow, this night, we got to see a REAL vampire--.

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Tags: ballet
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