Thursday evening, October 22, Milwaukee Ballet opened its new season with Michael Pink’s “Dracula.” The ballet was very well received by a large audience- several of whom were dressed in character for the occasion. The production ended in a standing ovation which was certainly merited after several incredibly unique performances. Milwaukee Ballet’s “Dracula” continues now through Sunday night, October 25.
“Dracula”opens with Harker, who is tormented by memories of wolves and demons as he wrestles with his sanity in an asylum. The audience is thrown into the show with a whirl of activity that can be a bit scattered and random at times, if you don’t know the full story. However, this prologue is an excellent, creative way to set up the story and jump the audience into the tone of “Dracula.”
The style of the ballet, from wardrobe to set design to choreography, is perfectly suited for the horror story. The music is original, eerie, and perfectly matched to the dancers’ movements. Similarly, Dracula’s red draped cloak combined with Davit Hovhannisyan’s stretched movements, elongates him, making for an even more supernatural villain. The entire ballet has several nods to Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” and “Nosferatu” with an original twist that makes it a fun, authentic portrayal of the classic monster.
Regardless of your familiarity with “Dracula”, you’re bound to be amazed by the number of unique, inventive dances featured in Michael Pink’s ballet. One of the first scenes to wow audiences is Harker dance opposite three of Dracula’s brides immediately followed by his duet with Dracula. One expects to see a beautiful male-female dance in a ballet, but the audience is treated to one-of-a-kind creativity in seeing one male dancer support and effortlessly transition between dancing with three women at once.
Even more unusual in a traditional ballet is to find two men dancing and supporting each other as Davit Hovhannisyan and Patrick Howell do as Dracula and Harker. While the dance begins with the two characters sharing the same space, it develops and grows into a predator-prey dance as we see the two men lift, carry, and support each other as one fall victim to the other.
Another truly impressive piece that must receive its well-earned praise is that of Renfield and Mina’s duet. Marc Petrocci plays Renfield, who dances the entirety of the piece while bound by a straight jacket. He manages to lift, support, and maneuver around Susan Gartell (Mina) without the use of his arms in a one-of-a-kind performance that leaves the audience speechless. Petrocci’s armless performance was just one of many moments that proved that the men of Milwaukee Ballet took the night during “Dracula.”
The one area that lacks in “Dracula” is an unusual shortage of character development, especially from such a talented storyteller as Michael Pink. Those who know the story are able to jump right into the characters, but newcomers are not shown the connections and relationships between characters are strongly as needed, making some characters interchangeable.
Milwaukee Ballet’s “Dracula” continues now through Sunday, October 25. Tickets are available online or by calling 414-902-2103.