by Susan Lenz
In the spring of 1994, William Starrett came to my little frame shop with an order for Columbia City Ballet. Easily, he talked me into exchanging my services for performance tickets. I took my six year old son to the next performance: The Ballet Tara. It was not critically acclaimed, but we didn’t know any better. We loved it and very much looked forward to the next season’s opening show, Dracula: Ballet with a Bite.
We loved Dracula too. My son left the Koger Center asking for dance lessons. He wanted nothing more than to be on the stage with the Undead. Looking back, I can now see that even a six-year-old boy might feel the attraction of half-clad female vampires using their sexuality to lure men into rolling around on the floor of hot red and passionate purple stage set. What’s not to like when the contract-required long hair of the female cast is part of the choreography? Alluringly slung in full head tosses? The seduction hasn’t changed since Dracula debuted in 1991.
Yet, much else has. And change is necessary. This is the twenty-second time Dracula has been part of Columbia City Ballet’s season (since 1991, there were a couple years when Dracula’s Revenge or Frankenstein was done instead of the original cult classic.) There is a constant need to update costumes, props, and sets. Every year demands a physically grueling number of rehearsals to introduce new dancers to their parts and ease seasoned dancers into new roles. Over the years, additional music has enhanced the original ASCAP award-winning score by the late composer Thomas E. Samanski.
Even the fangs have changed. Early productions required dancers to visit Tom Hoffman, the company dentist, for full mouth impressions. Nowadays, thermoplastic fangs come in tiny coffin boxes from Dracula House. This year’s show will feature a new Gothic chair fashioned after a set designer’s recent trip visiting Eastern European castles. There’s a new character too: Renfield, Dracula’s weird, fly-eating minion.
Obviously, the cast has changed every year. In 1991 Gillian Murphy, now principal at American Ballet Theater in New York City, danced as a senior apprentice. William Starrett portrayed the protagonist, Jonathan Harker, but would later become Count Dracula before retiring.
In 1994, I left my younger son at home. He had just turned four and was in pre-kindergarten with Amanda Summey, one of this year’s Undead. By 1996, my elder son did appear in Dracula. He was one of the children in an idyllic picnic scene with Bonnie Boiter-Jolley, now a soloist with the Ballet and a Maiden of Darkness who is featured on this year’s advertisement poster.
Over the years, and now decades, I’ve seen Dracula: Ballet with a Bite dozens of times. It’s part of my never-dying Halloween tradition. I always look forward to the same campy, sexy fun as well as the updates and transitions that keep the production fresh.
For tickets to the show, please visit http://www.kogercenterforthearts.com
7:00 PM Friday, October 27, 2017
7:00 PM Saturday, October 28, 2017
There is masquerade “Gala with a Bite” ball after Friday’s performance. This ticketed event will be held at City Market Place, 705 B Gervais Street. Tickets can be ordered atbrownpapertickets.com/event/2962339 or by calling (803) 799-7605. On Saturday, there is a 6:00 PM pre-show lecture in the Koger Center Ballroom with Artistic Director William Starrett. During Saturday’s intermission, over $100 in prizes will be awarded through a costume competition for audience members. Dracula: Ballet with a Bite is also scheduled for Charleston’s Sottile Theater at 7:00 PM on Halloween night.