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Dracula: Not Your Typical Ballet

October 22, 2009
See this article published and illustrated with some awesome pictures (thanks to my friend Janna) at The NewsHouse.

 At a time when vampires rule screens big and small, why not let them rule the stage as well?

On Saturday, Upstate New York Ballet will do just that, performing their adaptation of Bram Stoker’sDracula.
The story of Dracula, full of drama, suspense, and intrigue, lends itself well to dance. Its inherent tension is reminiscent of the plots in ballet classics Romeo & Juliet and Giselle. But this ballet looks far from classical, trading smooth, elegant lines for broken, dramatic angles. To bring new life to the old choreography, Upstate has brought choreographer Katrina Jade home.
A native of Central New York, Jade currently resides in Los Angeles and is the founder and artistic director of Faux Pas Dance Company. A self-proclaimed “vampire fanatic,” Jade choreographed Upstate’s original Draculaproduction in 2001 when Artistic Director Kathleen Rathburn approached her with the idea.
“I was all for it,” Jade said. “I felt I had been preparing my whole life to create this.”
For her, choreography hinges on the perfect music, which she found in Philip Feeney’s dramatic, gothic score.
“I listen to the music, close my eyes, and see the steps in my head,” Jade said “When I heard the score it started to come to life for me.”
Like Jade, dancer Marysa Dalton agrees that music is the key. Playing the flirtatious and sexy “Lucy Westenra,” Dalton allowed the music to prepare her for the role. A native of New Zealand, Dalton was a member of the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s corps de ballet and performed in their adaptation of Dracula.
“To date it was my favorite ballet,” Dalton said. “That production had blood and gore, and it was just a fun ballet to do,”
After moving to New York City a year ago, Dalton came to Upstate’s Dracula auditions in September and learned she had secured the role of Lucy only a week before beginning rehearsals in Syracuse. Because of the lack of preparation time, she relied on the music.
“It just gets you in the role,” Dalton said.
Aside from the score, Jade allowed the dancers to inspire the choreography.
“I take what I see them doing and create choreography from that so the movement is organic to their bodies,” she said.
She believes that if the dancers are comfortable with their choreography, they will focus more on their performance than getting the steps right, which is vital for this show — just ask Dracula.
“Dracula is one of those stories that everybody knows and everyone has their own idea of who the character is,” said Brandon Alexander, who plays the iconic role. “You just have to make it your own.”
To do this, Alexander, a company member of the Rochester City Ballet, watched film interpretations of vampires to prepare him for the role.
“I rented the movie Dracula and I’ve been watching Interview with the Vampire to study how those actors move and transform,” he said.
Overall, he believes that Dracula is a good fit for him.
 “He’s a very easy character to dive into,” and hinting at a performance infused with more Lestat than Edward Cullen, Alexander added,  “You definitely get the scary, angry side of him,”
For Jade, the measure of Dracula’s success will be if the audience can feel the emotion of the performance.
“I want the audience to be taken to a different place,” Jade said. “I want them to be involved in the drama.
“And I want them to get chills.”

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