Wednesday, October 16, 2002


Ohio Ballet opens seasonwith 'DRACULA'

When the Cleveland San Jose Ballet exited the Cleveland area it left a void in local dance. This is especially evident in full-length story ballet. Only touring companies such as American ballet theatre staged these often audience-pleasing pieces. Up stepped Ohio Ballet to fill the void. Last season they performed the delightful 'PETER PAN' followed by the less successful, but enjoyable 'HAMLET, THE BALLET.' Their 2002 2003 season started with 'DRACULA,' which turned out to be an inconsistent piece.

The ballet is based on the Gothic tale of Count Dracula, a blood-thirsty vampire which was written by Bram Stoker. The ballet is set to the music of Verdi, Rossini, Bizet, Rachmaninoff and Debussy and was conceived by Stuart Sebastian. It premiered in 1990 with a performance by the Dayton Ballet.

The story lends itself to a grand production. The OBT 12-member company made the production intimate. This “little” performance was even intensified due to the massive stage and auditorium space at The University of Akron’s E. J. Thomas Hall stage. It appeared that Barbara Pontecorvo who staged the production tried to compensate by having her performers give bigger-than-life gestures and movements. It caused the dancers, especially the males, to appear melodramatic and comedic rather than dramatic. This was especially true in the performances of Dmitry Tubolstev, William Hoppe and Eric Carvill. Damien Highfield danced very well, but lacked the evil and grandeur needed to convey the horror of Dracula. Brian Murphy was his usual excellent self, but one must question why the choreographer decided to make his madness look like monkey movements. Amanda Cobb, Kristin Knapp and Alicia Pitts worked as a unit as the Vampire wives. Mary Beth Hansohn, Jesica Salomon, and Larissa Freud danced well. Hansen’s toe-work was outstanding.

The massive amount of music was almost overwhelming. From requiem masses, to piano and organ solos, from nocturnes to preludes, the music changed constantly, yet the choreography often did not parallel the alterations. The fact that the music was recorded also caused ear-jarring changes as the modes and instruments altered.

Capsule judgement: Ohio Ballet needs to be praised for trying to offer the community full story-line ballets. On the other hand, they must be aware of the abilities of their dancers and the small size of the company.