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Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s Dracula: Not for the Faint of Heart

Julia Erickson and Cooper VeronaPittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s production of Dracula will run from Oct. 27-29. Photo by Duane Rieder.

By April Osburn, Point Park News Service:

For those who enjoy being spooked and live for Halloween, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s production of “Dracula” will return for the 2017-2018 season opener gracing audiences at the Benedum Center over Halloween weekend.  

The dynamic performance, based on the 1897 novel by Bram Stoker, takes you on a journey with Count Dracula to fulfill his ravaging thirst for fresh blood Oct. 27-31. 

“Dracula” was last performed by Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre in February 2011. Alexandra Kochis, principal dancer, will reprise her role of Svetlana. She describes how, having performed this role before, she enjoys a deeper dive into the character development less on the technique.  

“What I really love about dancing is telling a story, so being able to focus less on minutiae and more on what’s going to touch the audience has been a real pleasure,” said Kochis. She hopes the audience will feel the pathos in the storyline and recognize the humanity inside the monster, which she has come to appreciate. 

The ballet opens in Dracula’s castle. Dracula, played by Cooper Verona, is joined in the dark scene by his squadron of vampire brides. A beautiful village girl has been kidnapped and becomes a feast for all in attendance, now forced to serve the sentence as another one of Dracula’s eternal brides. A more technical and upbeat scene follows with Svetlana, an innocent beauty from the village, and her soon to be husband dancing joyfully with the villagers, showcasing a combination of classical steps and character dances much like those originating in the countryside of Romania.  

Cooper Verona in Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s production of Dracula will run from Oct. 27-29. Photo by Duane Rieder.

Dracula then swoops down from his castle and kidnaps Svetlana to quench his thirst. The contradictory relationship that ensues shows Dracula torn between his lust for blood and the way Svetlana reminds him of a great romance from the past. She is different from the others and this internal conflict within Dracula’s character is overwhelmingly evident on stage. The events that follow are emotional and exciting. 

The compelling choreography by Ben Stevenson, former director of the Houston Ballet, expertly flirts with the ominous and suspenseful score composed by Franz Liszt and arranged by John Lanchberry. From the darker first and third acts to the more lively and upbeat second act, the music and dancing transport the audience from their seats in the theater into the story on stage. 

The sets and costumes are so authentic that it feels as if the viewer is actually in 19th century Transylvania thanks to Judanna Lynn and Thomas Boyd, costume designer, and set designer respectively, and their in-depth research into the art and architecture of Germany, Romania and the Balkans from that time period. Artistic Director Terrence S. Orr continues to push this company to new limits and never fails to deliver ballet and contemporary performances of the highest quality to the Pittsburgh audience.  

Tickets are available at the box office at Theater Square or online at www.pbt.org. With five performances from Oct. 27-29, you do not want to miss the opportunity to see this engrossing ballet.  

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