The Atlanta Ballets current show begins with a skin-crawling prologue. Wolfish, costumed dancers surround a sleeping mans bed; a happy wedding repeatedly turns into a mournful funeral; and booming, insistent knocks resound throughout. The rapping sounds suggest Poes raven tapping at the chamber door. The images evoke Goyas nightmarish paintings, and the whole disturbing tableau dispels any preconceived notions you have of ballet as a genteel performing art.
The surreal, sideways introduction to the Dracula ballet provides a fresh interpretation of one of our cultures most familiar stories, like putting new blood in an old bottle. The Atlanta Ballets production proves ideal for audiences who dont like dance or dont realize that they actually enjoy ballet.
John Welker embraces the animalistic athleticism of the cadaver-thin Count, flinging back his arms in bat-wing positions and even hanging upside down several times. Welker has fun with the character even his posture seems unnatural while infusing Dracula with an eerie dignity. Following his Kabuki-style entrance, Dracula has three seductive, neck-biting dances with a different partner each time throughout the show, and its interesting to contrast the choreography.
In Act 1s Transylvanian castle, Dracula entwines hapless realtor Jonathan Harker (Brian Wallenberg) like a cross between a boa constrictor and a hypnotic cobra. Compared to Harkers semi-date-rape, naïve Lucy (Anne Tyler Harshbarger) seems more willing to receive Draculas attentions. The pair sways more gracefully in tandem, like two bodies becoming one. At times Dracula seems to avoid the lighting, so Lucy shines while he resembles a shadow. With Harkers young but strong-willed wife Mina (Christine Winkler), the dance more resembles abduction, with lots of lifting and physical opposition.
Director and choreographer Michael Pink (who co-created the original production with Christopher Gable) draws on the kind of silent movie traditions that retain the fright factor of the 1922 film Nosferatu, while lending themselves to dance, as in 2002s Dracula: Pages of from a Virgins Diary, director Guy Maddins surreal collaboration with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. Philip Feeneys score, conducted by Dan Allcott, suggests an especially lush rendition of a melodramatic silent-era soundtrack, and ingeniously interweaves such sound effects as booming heartbeats and rodent-like shrieks.
Sometimes the stylized movement flirts with unintended comedy in the would-be horrific encounters: At one point I imagined Dracula saying to Harker, I will knee-walk to you, in your shirtlessness. Since Bram Stokers original novel unfolds like a series of chamber pieces, the ballet has to stretch a bit to justify big group dances: gypsies and lurching Cossacks in the Transylvanian village; upper-class swells at a seaside hotel in Act 2; and the Goth-dressed undead in Act 3, whose sequence resembles a classical version of Michael Jacksons Thriller video.
Some of the dances' orgiastic qualities perfectly suit Draculas theme of the tensions between lust and death (while providing a welcome rejoinder to the Twilight franchises vision of chaste, bite-free vampire love). Jesse Tyler provides one of the shows most weirdly memorable moments as Draculas deranged human agent Renfield, who conveys his emotions to Mina with herky-jerky dancing in bare feet and a straightjacket. The Atlanta Ballets Dracula shifts the audiences attention on the dancers: For this show, their supple necks may be even more crucial than their feet.
Dracula Through Feb. 15. $11-$115. Fri., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; Feb. 7, 2 and 8 p.m.; Feb. 14, 8 p.m. Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre, 2800 Cobb Galleria Parkway. 404-817-8700. www.atlantaballet.com.
(Photo by Charlie McCullers)
@ Roxanne Dimacale
Hi, We're looking for kidney donors, Very urgently. B+ve , O+ve, O+ and A+ve with…
Thought-provoking piece ! I was enlightened by the points . Does someone know where I…
In Dec. of 2014 I was diagnosed with terminal cancer at the age of 39…
I think it would be great if the bloods and crips stopped killing each other,…