Atlantic City Ballet takes a bite out of “Dracula”
Long before zombies and the undead filled the movie and television screens, before vampires were teen-aged and handsome in the “Twilight” series, before even Abraham Lincoln was a vampire hunter, there was Bram Stoker’s “Dracula.” For Halloween and horror fans, Atlantic City Ballet brings the classic vampire tale across New Jersey in time for the ghoulish holiday celebration. Atlantic City Ballet, led by Founder and Artistic Director Phyllis Papa, performs its adaptation of “Dracula” in three venues throughout the state later this month. The ballet, choreographed by Papa, is a theatrical event with lavish sets and lush costumes, danced with technical prowess and acted with passion. Papa has assembled a company of 26 professional dancers from four continents, representing 11 countries. The dancers have earned national acclaim for their technical expertise, stage presence and musicality. The company has performed in venues throughout the East coast and is bringing “Dracula”not only to New Jersey, but also to stages in Georgia and New York.
The tale of the ballet closely follows the story of Dracula as told by Bram Stoker. Knowledge of the original story and cast of characters helps to follow the action. Set in the 15th century, the story begins in Transylvania where a young lawyer, Jonathan Harker has come to help Count Dracula purchase an estate in England. Harker soon finds himself captured and imprisoned by Count Dracula. Meanwhile, back in England, Harker's fiancée, Mina is worried about him and wonders why she hasn't heard from him in a long time.
In the meantime, Dracula has arrived in England, but hasn't shown himself yet. Renfield, a mental patient and one of the most memorable characters, eerily warns that the "Master" is coming soon. Mina’s best friend Lucy Westerna, who can only think about her own suitors, is the first victim of the Count as he drains the life out of her. Dr. Van Helsing realizes that there's a vampire involved, but knows Lucy's not really dead as he leads a team into her tomb to catch her as a vampire. Mina and Jonathan are reunited, but Count Dracula has already been smitten with Mina, and is still dangerously on the loose. Van Helsing, along with Harker, must get rid of Dracula once and for all, and the duo leads a crusade to free Mina and the world from Dracula.
The score for the ballet comes from several compositions as Papa chose the music for the performance from various sources. The music is composed by Mark Mancina, Yoko Kana, Wojciech Kilar, Richard Gibbs, Alan Silvestri, Noriyuki Asakura, John Williams, Nobuo Uematsu, Eliot Goldenthal, Marco D’Ambrosio, Eguchi Takahito, and John Corigliano. Papa completed the complicated task of selecting the music for the ballet before setting the choreography on the dancers.
Papa is truly a gem of the New Jersey dance scene. She founded Atlantic City Ballet in 1982 and serves as its artistic director and main choreographer. Having choreographed more than 30 ballets for the company—including “Dracula” in 2006—Papa has been awarded many honors throughout her dance career for both her choreography and her performance. Her dance career has taken her around the world as she has danced for a President of the United States, the Shah of Iran, and the King of Denmark. In 1998, Papa received the Brazilian Gold Medal of Honor, awarded by Diplomats from Brazil, England, Italy, China, Japan and the United States. She also founded the ACBT Performing Arts Academy—the official school of The Atlantic City Ballet—and has won awards for her teaching expertise.
Papa has created a thrilling theatrical event based on the classic gothic horror story. “Dracula,” performed by the Atlantic City Ballet, mixes romance and passion with a bit of fright - the perfect combination for your Halloween season! Don’t miss your chance to meet Dracula and the Atlantic City Ballet!
Performances are: Saturday, October 19, 3:00 & 8:00 pm: Performing Arts Center, Sussex County Community College One College Hill Road, Newton: Sunday, October 20, 3:00 pm: The Strand Theater, 400 Clifton Avenue, Lakewood: Sunday, October 27, 4:00 pm: Landis Theater, 830 East Landis Avenue, Vineland.
Also of note:
At the end of October and the beginning of November, in addition to “Dracula,” Atlantic City Ballet is performing an original ballet inspired by the events of Superstorm Sandy. The new ballet entitled “In the Eye of the Storm” explores the impact of nature on mankind and the resilience of spirit that enables people to overcome and transcend even the most devastating circumstances. Choreographed by Atlantic City Ballet’s ballet master, Kristaps Kikulis, the ballet incorporates movements by actual survivors created during workshops held over the summer months.
Papa explains, “This is an exciting opportunity for the ballet to be able to help in the recovery and to use dance to create a community of survivors not victims.” Atlantic City Ballet was honored to receive a grant from the New Jersey Recovery Fund at the Community Foundation of New Jersey to assist in the creation of this work.
Performances: Tuesday, October 29, 7:00 pm, New Jersey Performing Arts Center, One Center Street, Newark. Saturday, November 2, 4:00 pm, Dante Hall Theatre, 14 North Mississippi Ave, Atlantic City. Saturday, November 9, 7:00 pm, Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts and Sciences, Loveladies