The fabulous presentation of Dracula by Ballet Nebraska last Friday night only proves the promise this young company has.
Performed at the Orpheum Theater, the dramatic ballet was a visual feast. From the enormous handsome sets to the impressive lighting, the mood was suitably creepy. Transylvania indeed. Kudos to set design and construction wizards Ron Barrett and Homer McClure, and lighting by Jerry Wolderski of Theatrical Media Services.
And the next best thing to live music is expertly edited recorded music and a great sound system. The music of masters – Liszt, Strauss, Brahms, Kilar, Class, Barry, and Goldenthal – were perfectly blended to set the tone.
The costumes were so beautiful they took your breath away. Lucy’s red dress was perfection, as were the brides’ dresses. Even the flower-strewn hairdos were heavenly. And the Masquerade Ball/Wedding Reception gowns were resplendent. Even the men’s costumes were impressive (especially Dracula’s). All worked to tell the story more effectively.
Ah, the story. A familiar one. Jonathan Harker (Matthew Carter who is also ballet master) come to the Transylvania castle of Count Dracula with papers to sign. There he almost becomes a victim of the vampire, with three of Dracula's brides taunting him (Erin Alarcon, Claire Goodwillie and Kelsey Schwenker). He escapes to his fiancee, Mina. The three vampire brides were so beautiful, and so graceful, it was simply enchanting. The choreography was quite lovely and foreshadowed a larger version later.
The Masquerade Ball offers the opportunity for all of the company to dance, either to a Strauss waltz or as a band of Gypsies who entertain (in more beautiful, colorful costumes). A mysterious masked guest arrives, but no one recognizes Count Dracula as he dances with Mina, the bride, and her best friend, Lucy (in the stunning red dress). After the ball, he returns to find Lucy alone, begins to seduce her then bites her, leaving her dead.
At her funeral, the Count shows up to claim his new bride, taking her body with him to his castle, with Jonathan, Mina and townspeople on his heels.
At the castle, Lucy is brought to life as a vampire. When Mina is left alone, Lucy begins to initiate Mina as Dracula’s next bride. But when the Count sees Mina again, he realizes he is in love with her, so can’t claim her as his vampire bride.
All of these scenes are brought to life with some pretty wonderful dancing. Sasha York IS Dracula. He conveys his creepy nature in a subtle way that is all the more menacing. Natasha Grimm as Mina and Erika Overturff as Lucy were both terrific.
Really, by the last act, I was beginning to be swept away by the ethereal beauty of the dancers – my criteria for a really wonderful experience at the ballet. Guest choreographer Winthrop Corey is amazing, and I think this company was up to the challenge.
Congratulations to Ballet Nebraska founder and artistic director Erika Overturff (also the beautiful Lucy) on her many accomplishments, wearing her many hats.
I am really looking forward to Ballet Nebraska’s next offering, their own brand new version of The Nutcracker. It will be presented at Iowa Western Arts Center on December 2 and the Omaha Music Hall on December 4. There will also be a Nutcracker Tea Party at Joslyn Castle, hosted by the Ballet Nebraska Guild, on November 27. (Visit the website: balletnebraska.org.)
Count Dracula may be scary, but the ballet bearing his name is beautiful!