BWW Previews: DRACULA at First State Ballet Theatre
First State Ballet Theatre stages a completely original DRACULA at the baby grand October 18 - 20.
Choreography is by Viktor Plotnikov, a longtime collaborator of Artistic Director Pasha Kambalov. Their friendship goes back to 1987, when the two were dancers with Donetsk Ballet Company in Ukraine (A nation in the news presently. You may have heard...).
Born in Kharkov City, Ukraine, Mr. Plotnikov received his training at the Kiev-Ukraine School and the St. Petersburg Vaganova Ballet Academy. Emigrating just one year after Pasha left for the US, Viktor held principal dancer positions at Ballet Mississippi and Tulsa Ballet Theatre, before joining Boston Ballet as a principal dancer in 1993 to 2006.
Viktor now is an independent choreographer and has worked with FSBT in their original piece "Everlasting Arms", based on the works of Charles Parks and a new version of Romeo and Juliet, among others.
Pasha and Viktor were brainstorming about an original work and the gothic thriller DRACULA came to mind. While Viktor does both contemporary and classical ballet, this production will be danced in the latter. His inspirations come from the 1931 classic with Bela Lugosi ("I vant to take a bite of your neck") and the 1992 version with Gary Oldham in the title role, donning one of the most outrageous prosthetic make up jobs this side of Chewbacca.
Viktor wished to make it clear that this is his vision. He created not only the script for the ballet but also the set design. FSBT continues the years long relationship with a costume builder from Moldova. Costuming is eternally excellent.
Set in Transylvania, legend has it that this mountainous country in the Carpathians is the source of every known superstition in the world.
Aisle Say had the opportunity to visit a rehearsal last week. Always I am impressed with the energy, the joy, the love for their art expressed by the entire troupe. Studiously they follow Viktor's direction with both gravity and glee. There are a few new faces this season. Due to the international reputation of FSBT, some come to Wilmington from around the world. Their backgrounds are quite diverse. I urge you to visit the site and click on the bios of these dedicated professionals.
Here is a Cliff Notes on the characters:
Dracula (Andrew Matte) He is the vampire who has been "Un-Dead" for several hundred years and keeps his vitality by sucking blood from live victims, including lions, tiger and bears. (Just kidding about the latter 3). Dracula has massive eyebrows and sharp teeth (especially the canines)! A 5th year vet, Andrew is from NH. He has performed roles such as Rothbart in Swan Lake, Bacchus in Walpurgisnacht, Hilarion in Giselle, and Tybalt in Romeo and Juliet. As a choreographer, he got his start here at First State Ballet Theatre creating works on the company.
Jonathan Harker (Zane Winders) The young London solicitor who is sent to Transylvania to finalize the transfer of real estate in England to Count Dracula. Zane has had numerous lead roles at FSBT. He is also an international guest artist, making appearances in Texas, Colorado, Arizona, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Guatemala.
Miss Mina (Wilhelmina) (Angela Zielen) The fiancée of Jonathan Harker; she will become a "persecuted maiden" during the latter part of the story. In Bram Stoker's original novel, Mina is not only not in love with Dracula, she is actively repelled by him. (Hallo! Can anyone say schizophrenic)? In her 6th season at FSBT, Angela has a degree from UD in Cognitive Science. She has danced featured roles in NUTCRACKER, PAQUITA and danced Aurora in SLEEPING BEAUTY. However, Aisle Say would suggest her favorite role was in the corps in DON QUIXOTE.
Miss Lucy (Rie Aoki) She is paying a huge price for her disturbing penchant for sleepwalking. Sadly and naively unaware, it allows her to become Dracula's first victim. (Horror)! Soon, Lucy becomes the victim of Dracula. Although Van Helsing and her suitors try to save her, she dies and becomes a vampire. Born in Tokyo, Rie has danced with Kirov Ballet and Milwaukee Ballet, to name a few. She was a judge at The National Ballet competition at The Grand. Rie has been featured in Pointe magazine as a stylish ballerina, in Philadelphia Magazine as one of 11 Fashion Creatives in Philly and on Delaware Online, showcasing her love for ballet and for fashion styling.
Quincey P. Morris (Luiz Gustavo Madubuike) Another of Lucy's suitors. Morris is an American from Texas. Born in Sao Paulo Brazil, Gustavo studied in the Bolshoi Ballet School there. He studied with the Lamondance contemporary company in Vancouver, Canada, where he danced many principal roles and performed with The Royal City Ballet Company in Vancouver as a soloist in The Nutcracker
Dr. Abraham Van Helsing (Brian Hunter) An M.D., a Ph.D., and a D.Litt., as well as an attorney. He is an expert at... well... everything and probably would surpass Ken Jennings' total winnings on JEOPARDY. His knowledge includes the occult which allows him to take charge of Lucy's illness, which he identifies immediately as vampirism. In his 2nd season, Brian danced in Salvatore Aiello's Journey with the Men of Richmond Ballet and a re-staging of George Gershwin's "American in Paris "to the original un-edited composition. With FSBT he has performed in Don Quixote and Coppélia and of course NUTCRACKER.
Renfield (Richy Romero) is an inmate at the lunatic asylum. (I am dating myself, but the character who gets stoned in the 50's movie classic REEFER MADNESS probably took his cues from the scene munching Renfield character in the 1931 original with Bela). ( see link below ). Renfield is thought to suffer from delusions which compel him to eat live insects in the hope of obtaining their life-force for himself. (Chewing down on crickets and grasshoppers while he is dancing will be convincing testimony of Richy's commitment to Pasha and Kristina Kambalov! From NJ and in his 5th season, Richy's roles also include The Hooligan from The Young Lady and the Hooligan and Mercutio in Viktor Plotnikov's Romeo and Juliet. Last season Richy made his debut as Prince Desirè in The Sleeping Beauty. He is majoring in Education at Wilmington University.
October 26 - Cape Henlopen High School
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VoaMw91MC9k 1931 and Bela in DRACULA. Back to thrill and chill you
Photo Credits: Tisa Della-Volpe (The exquisite photo artist who captures athleticism in motion).