'Dracula' no immortal ballet

October 20, 1997|By Judith Green | Judith Green,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

The first thing you need for a story ballet is a compelling reason to tell the story in dance.

This is not the only element missing from Ballet Theater of Annapolis' "Dracula," but it's the most important one.

For much of the new ballet, created in observance of the 100th anniversary of Bram Stoker's Victorian thriller, choreographer Edward Stewart hasn't made enough dance steps to fill up the music. Nor has he paid very much attention to the novel, as you can tell from such gaffes as Dracula's death. Jonathan Harker stabs him -- though, as everyone knows, a vampire can be killed only by a stake through the heart.

Happily, the production, which played to packed houses this weekend at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts, has a fine Dracula. Dmitry Tuboltsev, the Bolshoi dancer who joined the company just a month ago, is a real danseur with a big, showy technique and what looks like genuine regard for the tormented character he plays.

Mina, the mortal woman Dracula loves, is danced by the exquisite Natasha Kirjanov.

Principal dancer Leslie Bradley invests Lucy Westenra, the first victim of the count's embrace, with stature and authority. Moreover, she survives the experience of being squired by five teen-age boys from the Kirov Academy in Washington, who were added to the production because BTA is woefully short of men this season.

Stewart has set the ballet to music from two films -- "Bram Stoker's Dracula" (1992) by Wojciech Kilar and "Interview With the Vampire" (1995) by Elliot Goldenthal. It's atmospheric but largely undanceable. In the middle, Stewart has thrown in a large undigested lump of Prokofiev's "Romeo and Juliet" ballet, which belongs here about as much as it does in the middle of a rave.

The music suffers, too, from amateurish audio production by the usually reliable technical director, John Menocal.

The costumes for the many (far too many) vampire maidens are expensive lingerie, mostly. And why, when Dracula is caped and cavalier, a throwback to the 14th century, do his ladies wear thigh-high minidresses that expose lots of bare legs and unenthralling underwear?

But mainly I want to know why dancer Jeffrey Watson ran about in a loincloth as something called "Dracula as Beast," who does not appear in Stoker's novel or anywhere else, and who wears on his head what appears to be an Oglala Sioux buffalo headdress, unless it's the passenger-side floor mat from my last car.

Pub Date: 10/20/97

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