BWW Review: MKE Ballet Haunts Uhlein Hall in Pink's Thrilling DRACULA

When the curtainss opened in Uhlein Hall last weekend at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts, Milwaukee Ballet unfolded Michael Pink's world renowned Dracula to a mesmerized audience. While the stage Dracula seduced his prey, the ballet company danced with sensual abandon in technical beauty that captivated the audience through the three act evening accompanied by the accomplished Milwaukee Symphony Ballet Orchestra directec by Andrew Sill. To up the production's intensity, stunning lighting effects conjured by the award winning designer David Grill focused color shimmered on backdrops or a moon rising above the dancers where spectacular lighting illuminated the theater.

In this full length ballet, the story centers around Bram Stoker's 1897 Gothic horror novel where an aristocratic Transylvanian Count requires human blood to survive. When an innocent Harker (Patrick Howell) visits Dracula on business, the Count toys with him and ultimately follows Harker back to England after admiring a picture of his fiancé, Mina (Susan Gartell) and eventually follows Harker to make Mina his partner in his world of the undead.

Davit Hovhannisyan's stately Dracula opened the past weekend costumed in a flowing red cap while his lean and long body line envisioned an imposing, regal Dracula. During Act I, Harker duels with Dracula, psychologically and physically, while Howell and Hovhannisyan create dramatci lifts, unusual yet stunning for two male dancers.

When Act II opens, imaginative and joyful corps work appear at a tea party in a Grand Hotel that lightens the ballet's dark themes. Sitll, Philip Fenney's intense score forshadows the coming of Dracula, who will then encourage Mina's friend Lucy (Luz San Miguel), to meet the Count and be undone by his powers. After her encounter with Dracula at the party, Lucy arrives at the Sanatorium, where Hovhannisyan climbs down the stairs to her room in athletic, graceful style, and the pas de deux speaks to Dracula's power over his prey, and Miguel's demise The male counterparts, Dr. Van Helsing (Denis Malinkine), Quincy (Alexandre Ferreira) and Arthur (Timothy O"Donnell) mourn her illness as she runs from her room to join Dracula's callijng, as an undead. .

When Dracula finally seduces Mina for his "partner," he celebrates with a host of ghosts called from their graves, an incredible number for the ballet corps and Grill's lighting, an ending upholiding how the entire evening has unfolded, a truly haunting experience. However, Harker and his friend's finally ntervene on Mina's behalf, and the entire performance both chills and thrills the audience. With Sill driecting Fenney's evocative and lush score combined with elegant costumes and elaborate sets transported from the Colorado Ballet, Pink's Dracula tantalizes and unnerves the audience.

This sophisticated and unsettling ballet captures every drop of drama and deadly seduction from the timeless story envisioned by Stoker's original novel. This dance of survival and death remains with the audiences long after they leave the arts center, and the entire producton bewiched Milwaukee again. The fascination with the will to survive and immortality appreciated in the ballet's darkest moments shadows the story that remain constant themes in any era.

While Pink's production has traveled the world for 19 years, MKE Ballet artistically reimagines Dracula's tortured journey in spectacular fashion, an amazing contrast of the terror contained in the story amid the great beauty of ballet. A production, which similar to Dracula's prey, can be impossible to resist viewing again and again. Pink continues to enliven the contemporary ballet repetoire for modern audiences by exploring fresh translations of traditional stories in every genre to create new legacies for classical dance.The city can barely wait for the company, along with the Ballet's extraordinary costume shop. to reliveThe Nutcracker's fanciful delights in December. Renew another memorable story for the upcoming holidays that will warm family traditions.

The Milwaukee Ballet continues their spectacular 2015-2016 season with the holiday performance of The Nutcracker in December. For futher information, special events and tickets, please visit.

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From This Author Peggy Sue Dunigan

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