Ballet Internationale

Murat Theatre

Last weekend

Ballet Internationale mesmerized with a magnificent Dracula, music by Phillip Feeney, choreography and direction by Michael Pink. Simultaneously cinematic and operatic, it is superb ballet theater in all aspects of performance, design and production elements.

This Dracula is to ballet today what The Magic Flute was to opera in 1791. The knocking is strikingly poignant in each; entrance is demanded by Dracula and by those wishing to enter the Freemason lodge. Magic Flute opens with Tamino endeavoring to escape from a huge snake. Dracula opens with Jonathan Harker striving to escape from his encounters in Transylvania.

The same can be said about Dracula that George Balanchine wrote about the 1842 ballet Giselle: "it combines innovation with drama and dancing that make us forget all about [ballet] history." Like Giselle, Dracula deals with supernatural and mysterious powers, only here erstwhile characters are below the world, not above it. Pink's Female Vampires are as beautiful and seductive as are The Wilis, and his Dracula is as elegantly charismatic as are TV evangelists. As in Giselle, score and choreography are fueled by contrasts between what we hear and see throughout three action-packed, surprise-filled acts.

Bram Stoker's novel raised questions that still trouble us - what kinds of personalities succumb to evil inclinations? Why doesn't Jonathan Harker heed the village woman's warning not to go to Count Dracula's castle?

BI's regular company delivers demanding dancing and acting throughout. They are strong, confident, completely in control of minutest details of movement, timing and dynamics. They can roll on the floor with the best of modern dancers and sweep into leaps without a hint of stress. Yet three guest artists earn special mention. Douglas McCubbin as Dracula is peerless as a predator, alternately floating and slithering, appearing never to touch the floor in either form. His hand and arm movements hypnotize, his body language cuts past the mind to the neck, he enters and exits on a blink. He is elegance and baseness pasted onto one towering body.

Equally engrossing is Tim Hubbard's Renfield, the mental patient who mirrors with Mina the seduction of Lucy by Dracula that he witnesses. Hubbard's handling of the character and choreography are brilliant. And it's most satisfying witnessing Edward Moffat beyond his exemplary Herr Drosselmeyer in The Nutcracker. Dr. Van Helsing's role isn't flashy, yet Moffat's stage presence adds depth to the youthfulness of the stricken ballerinas. At the 2:00 p.m. performances on Feb. 13, Chieko Oiwa's sweetly flirtatious Lucy instantly becomes powerless at the sight of the Count, while So Yon Nam as a more mature Mina brings a harder edge to the pas de deux with a Dracula determined to make her his bride. As Harker, Sergey Sergiev is amazingly pliable in Act I's breathtaking seduction scene against Dracula. At the 8:00 p.m. performance Irina Komarenko as Lucy, Karen Scalzitti-Kennedy as Mina and Ogulcan Borova as Harker deliver bolder interpretations of their characters to the same choreography.

Throughout, we are witnessing another example of BI bringing new, provocative ballet to Indianapolis at its Murat performance home.