Production will be held Oct. 27-29 at Victoria Theatre.
By Russell Florence Jr.
Oct 23, 2023
Just in time for Halloween, the Dayton Performing Arts Alliance presents the dark beauty of Dayton Ballet’s “Dracula: Bloodlines” Oct. 27-29 at the Victoria Theatre.
Opening Dayton Ballet’s 2023-2024 season and choreographed and conceived by former Dayton Ballet Artistic Director Karen Russo Burke, “Dracula: Bloodlines” transports audiences to 15th-century Transylvania. The story addresses how noble Prince Vlad became the infamous vampire Dracula. The strikingly designed two-act ballet was previously presented in 2016 and 2018, but organizers assure its thrills and chills will soar with refreshing appeal due to the addition of new company members.
“As with any change in cast, it will have a fresh look in terms of what our new dancers are bringing to the table in terms of their artistic and technical contributions,” says Dayton Ballet Artistic Director Brandon Ragland. “There are a substantial number of new faces bringing a new energy. And as for the dancers revisiting certain roles, there’s an opportunity for them to explore a different perspective, which is always fun to dive into. I’ve been observing rehearsals in the studio and it’s been great to feel the energy of the whole company.”
Burke has also been in the studio overseeing and re-staging her work. Allowing her the chance to tweak the show adheres to one of Ragland’s chief philosophies for choreographers.
“Give them the space to do their magic,” he says. “Allow creatives the opportunity to create, whether that’s re-staging something or creating something original. Karen has been making small changes here and there, which is what every choreographer does when they revisit a piece and have a different cast.”
In addition, “Dracula: Bloodlines” features Dayton Ballet dancers Isaac Jones as Vlad Dracul III/Dracula, Jasmine Getz as Katerina/Lucy Westenra, Claire Bergman as Lilith, and Lukas Pringle as Dr. Van Helsing. The production includes a unique component by incorporating vocalists from Dayton Opera’s Artist-in-Residence program to enhance character development throughout the ballet. Baritone, Michael Pandolfo sings the Vlad III/Dracula role, Tessa Fackelmann, mezzo-soprano, sings Lilith, and soprano Gabrielle Flannery is Lucy Westenra.
“Working with Tessa really enhances Karen’s story,” said Bergman, in a news release. “The combination of dancer and singer helps the audience better understand what our character, Lilith, is feeling. Tessa acts as my conscience, telling me what to do and how I should feel. We feed off each other’s energy. It’s a unique experience, and I’m excited to be a part of it again.”
Inside the music
Austin Jaquith, professor of music theory and composition at Cedarville University, composed the ballet’s eerie, evocative score, which will be performed live by the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra under the leadership of DPO Artistic Director and Conductor Neal Gittleman.
He says capturing the various emotions of the piece from danger to romance was always top of mind.
“The contrasts between aggression and violence and caring and tenderness makes the story more compelling,” says Jaquith. “There’s also a mystical, unknown evil in the piece as well. It was a lot of fun to be able to create a score with very different character focal points. There is a wonderfully broad spectrum of emotions in this ballet.”
Jaquith is grateful to be associated with a production that has become a Dayton Ballet favorite. And at the same rate, he is pleased to continue to work with company members on other projects such as Dayton Dance Initiative, proving his storytelling musicality significantly attracts those within the ballet idiom.
“I try to orient my music around a narrative,” he says. “I want to tell a pretty clear story, which is what makes the music work well. It’s not abstract. I work in concrete gestures of melody and clear rhythms. When the emotions are clear it translates well with physical motion. It’s very gratifying that dancers enjoy using my compositions for their own creative work.”
Finding the right hook
Jaquith also praises the production’s dramatic impulses heightening the action.
“At its core, this story represents the dangers of misbegotten power and influence, but it’s also a show audiences can enjoy from the magnificent costumes to the rise and fall of the tension among the characters,” he says. “There’s great high drama in this ballet as the story captures despair, happiness and love in motion.”
With spooky season in full swing, Ragland is eager to make “Dracula: Bloodlines” an audience-building exercise due to the sheer familiarity of the timeless tale.
“For anyone wanting to be introduced to ballet, shows with a theme provide the right hook,” he says. “And I hope Dayton Ballet can continue our audience base while also providing a gateway for people who have never been to the ballet before. Even if you’re not familiar with ballet, ‘Dracula: Bloodlines’ is a great way to become a part of the Dayton Ballet audience and the Dayton Performing Arts Alliance as a whole.”