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REVIEW: Original ballet puts sensual bite into 'Dracula' on Paramount stage

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Diana Nollen  ::   UPDATED: 21 January 2014 | 4:34 pm   ::  

CEDAR RAPIDS -- How appropriate that as a full moon was shining over Cedar Rapids on Saturday night (10/19/13), everybody was dancing in the moonlight on the Paramount Theatre stage.

Ballet Quad Cities brought two very different phases of the moon to a program elegant and lovely, fierce and frightening.

The evening opened with Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata," all three movements played to perfection by Orchestra Iowa's principal pianist, Miko Kominami. A single shaft of light shined on her, seated at a grand piano unobtrusively placed at the right side of the stage. Her presence was felt and heard, but never detracted from the beautiful dancing unfolding before a small, but appreciative audience estimated at 500.

The first movement is the one best-known to most folks, and the two male and two female dancers clad in icy blue moved through ethereal partnering, featuring beautiful arm extensions, spins and lifts, in a give-and-take like the gravitational pull of the lunar tides.

Like the music, the movement was elegant in its simplicity -- although nothing is ever simple about ballet or classical music -- the professionals just make it seem that way.

The second movement, more jolly and flirty, featured four ballerinas frolicking through the music before the fiery eruption of the third and final movement in the 20-minute work, choreographed by Deanna Carter of Seattle. Powerful leaps and turns from the two men and seven women, punctuated by beautiful pirouettes and lovely lifts, created a kind of meadow playground under the stars.

Alas, two ballerinas had the misfortune of missteps at different times, landing on the floor instead of their toes. I'm sure they were mortified, but both got back up and continued, looking as serene and sure as if nothing was amiss. In another spot, three ballerinas were not quite in synch, so it seemed this final movement could have used a bit more polish.

Nothing was amiss in the second half of the show, where choreographer Carter and artistic director Courtney Lyon created sublime creatures of the night in "Dracula." The hourlong piece followed the Bram Stoker story that's been told in a dozen different ways on stage and screen, from camp to vamp. This version was brooding and dark, dripping with sensuality.



Guest star Domingo Rubio was the lifeblood of this staging, as the seducer who turned his prey into undead creatures flying through the twilight in search of victims to quench their insatiable thirst. Hypnotic power coursed from his powerful legs to his arching talons and flashing eyes.

The entire piece had a very feral feel, from the inmates crawling about the asylum to the banshee-like Brides of Dracula swirling through the deathly scenarios. A special nod goes to Emily Kate Long as Mina, who fights off Dracula, and Jill Schwartz as Lucy, who falls under his spell. Her final undoing is a stake through the heart, shortly before Dracula suffers the same fate, disappearing into the night.

No one disappears into the darkness of Carter's masterful original ballet, performed to an undulating score of taped music, flowing seamlessly from Ravel and Poulenc to Britten, Bartok and others in a classical vein.

The fun continued after the applause died away, as audience members -- clad in elaborate costumes and concert attire -- were invited to walk through a creepy, haunted hallway and into a Halloween after-party in the adjoining Opus Cafe.

This was a delightful holiday touch, with spider webs draping tables and walls, free munchies, "wicked" drink specials, costume prizes and a psychic medium, all adding plenty of bite to the festive affair.

Ballet Quad Cities will return to the Paramount stage with "The Nutcracker" on Dec. 7 and 8 and "The Rite of Spring" on April 5 and 6, performing these seminal works with Orchestra Iowa.

For information, go to Orchestraiowa.org

 

 

 

 

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