Though it may seem an odd season opener, with its macabre themes and an allegiance to The Undead, “Dracula” proves that Charleston Ballet Theatre is alive and well.
The full-length ballet was expertly danced by the 14-member company in Jill Eathorne Bahr’s adaptation of Bram Stoker’s gothic tale on stage Friday night to a nearly full house at Charleston Music Hall.
The star of the show is Alexey Kulpin as the intense and sinister king of the dead, who commands the stage with his dramatic presence and immaculate technique. His arrow sharp jumps and effortless turns are no match for all who fall in his path. He expertly carries the story while keeping the audience under his spell.
Across the board, the principal dancers in the cast perform with finesse and strength, keeping the show dynamic and intriguing. They are comfortable in Bahr’s choreography, who, as usual, crafts the ballet with her fresh, contemporary style expressing the narrative with ease and elegance.
Jose Gonzalez Amaya is the London solicitor who visits Dracula and becomes imprisoned in the castle. He especially stands out in a romantic duet with his fiancée, Mina, danced by Gwyneth Kelly. Another highlight is the character of Lucy danced by the lovely Crystal Wellman, whose sleepwalking tendencies become trouble as she falls prey to Dracula’s affection.
The scenes between Wellman and Kulpin are charged with dramatic passion and partnering work that is at times sensuous and other times violent. The movements express the seduction and eventual surrender of Dracula’s eternal bride.
Steve Lepre, a popular local actor and director, plays the role of Professor Van Helsig, who uncovers Dracula’s scheme and saves Lucy.
But especially entertaining are the scenes where The Undead ensemble cavort, wreaking havoc on the unsuspecting victims of Transylvania. Costumes and stage make-up by Don Cantwell and Raydelle Robbins rival some of the various popular movies where zombies inhabit the earth. Terrifying and at times humorous, the effects create a frightening atmosphere.
In the spirit of Halloween, kudos to Charleston Ballet for a welcome reincarnation of their talents and an especially enjoyable evening.