With Halloween quickly approaching, Count Dracula is on his annual bloodlust tour, to sustain himself and his brood of undead. Can Dr. Van Helsing stop him? Colorado Ballet's home-grown production of Bram Stokerís Gothic horror story features sensually enthralling and physically thrilling choreography by Michael Pink, set to exhilarating atmospheric music by Philip Feeney, performed live by the Colorado Ballet Orchestra.

Domenico Luciano as Dracula and Chandra Kuykendall as Lucy
Domenico Luciano as Dracula
and Chandra Kuykendall as Lucy
Photo: Allen Birnbach, RGB
On opening night, Domenico Luciano, sent chills up our spine with his slithering moves and penetrating stare as the vampire king. His every appearance is ominous, including the curtain call!

Act I of the ballet is one of the greatest dream sequences ever performed on stage or screen, with Harker (Yosvani Ramos) having a nightmare and premonition of what is to come. Like many popular late 19th-century epics, such as Robert Louis Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll and Mister Hyde, Stoker's Dracula delineates the Victorian struggle between the dark, sensual forces of the Id, and the then contemporary English values of rationality and control. So, it is no surprise when the head-strong Harker ignores his dream, the pleadings of the Transylvanian locals (a lovely folk dance here), and the reception at Dracula's castle, to keep his appointment. Ramos' movement and body language captures both the underlying tension from Harker's unsettling experiences as well as the Englishman's stiff upper lip.

During Harker's visit to the castle, Dracula sees a photograph of Harker's wife, Mina (Sharon Wehner), and becomes infatuated, eventually disrupting an English summer fête to pursue her and her friend Lucy (Chandra Kuykendall). The dynamics between Dracula and each of the women couldn't be more different, with Mina resistant and Lucy intrigued. Wehner, who will be retiring after this season, her 22nd with the company, is a calming and strong presence, as Mina tends to Harker after his up close and personal encounter with Dracula; while Kuykendall's flirtatious, and later mad, Lucy, serves as a cautionary tale to any Victorian woman on the verge of passion.

Lucy's two suitors, Quincy (Nicolas Pelletier), a successful rancher from America's wild west (a romantic notion in Europe during the mid- and late-19th century), and Arthur (Christophor Moulton), a military officer, do their utmost to try to save her from the undead, but a nurse's removal of the garlic that Van Helsing had draped around her hospital bed (like Harker's removal of a crucifix given to him by one of the villagers), allows free passage for the fellow with those elongated incisors.

Amidst the turmoil, Van Helsing (Gregory K. Gonzales) stands as a beacon of order and rationality, while tending to Dracula's victims and marshalling forces to hunt down the dark lord. The doctor's work (Gonzales is a master of pantomime) provides the premise for Renfield (Francisco Estevez) to present a fractured background mirror to the action, encapsulating both madness and, like the archetype of the theatrical fool, truth. Estevez' energetic performance engenders an untempered and unsettling undertone that resists Van Helsing's best efforts.

As always, maestro Adam Flatt and the 30-piece Colorado Ballet Orchestra infuse Feeney's score with subtle preludes, eery and forboding premonitions, and dramatic climaxes. Director Lorita Travaglia's staging brings the epic demands of the story to fruition.

The Colorado Ballet's presentation of Dracula at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House runs through Sunday, October 15th. Tickets are nearly sold out. For availability: 303-837-8888 ext. 2, or Dracula contains mature content and is not recommended for children ages 12 or younger.

Bob Bows

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