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Fangtastic: Ballet Quad Cities' "Dracula" PDF Print E-mail
News/Features - Dance
Written by Thom White   
Monday, 14 October 2013 06:00

Domingo Rubio in 2012's DraculaDomingo Rubio left no doubt that his Count Dracula was in charge during Friday’s performance of Ballet Quad Cities’ Dracula at Moline's Scottish Rite Cathedral. (The production ended its two-night run on Saturday.) From his bat-like entrance – with the dancer slowly flapping his black cape from front to back as he made his way through the darkened auditorium – to his death, Rubio’s Dracula never seemed controlled by anyone, and that included choreographer Deanna Carter. Rubio gave the impression that his Dracula wasn’t moving because Carter gave him predetermined choreography, but because it was the way he wanted to move.

Dracula was not the first character to grace the stage, however. This balletic horror story started with Patrick Green’s Renfield in an asylum in England, and Green’s movements left no question about his character’s mental state as he hopped around on all fours, mixing in graceful steps and arm sweeps from the floor to his mouth. (This Renfield showed a penchant for eating bugs.) He was accompanied by a group of fellow patients wearing crazed-hair wigs and moving in an often chaotic frenzy, their movements sometimes aligning with his in a sort of line dance reminiscent of Michael Jackson’s creepy “Thriller” video. Green’s portrayal was so dynamic, and Carter’s choreography so true to the character, that it was unfortunate that Renfield did not play more prominently in the story.

Then again, it seemed hard, if not impossible, for anyone to match Rubio’s command of the stage. Rubio increased the nobility and authority of his blood-sucking count through movements that were never staccato or halting, and his always-graceful arcs and sweeps seemed to emanate from his commanding tone. It was as though Rubio’s Dracula cast his spells by way of his movement, which was most evident when he first met Jill Schwartz’s virginal Lucy, the recently engaged woman on whom Dracula has set his eyes. While she fell under his control, Carter choreographed mimicked movements, as Schwartz danced with precision while Rubio went through the same motions, but with a fluidity that made it clear that his Dracula was taking charge of Lucy’s will.

What was also remarkable about Rubio’s performance, in addition to his flowing dominance, was his sensuality, an essence that was neither lusty nor base. Dracula's suggestive nature started with Rubio’s costume, which included a black, long-sleeve, mesh shirt. While Rubio’s torso was visible, the slightly opaque nature of this shirt created a sexiness that was more effective than bare skin would have been, because his costume made it seem as though we were getting a mere peek at his physique; we were allowed to discover his body, rather than having it fully presented to us. And with this look combined with Rubio’s authority and grace, Dracula’s sexuality here was a force to be reckoned with.

In contrast, there was a wilder nature to Dracula’s brides, portrayed by Marie Buser, Margaret Huling, and Tessa Moore. Their free-flowing hair and the abandon in their dancing more than suggested their characters' interest in the sins of the flesh, particularly as they seduced Alec Roth’s Jonathan Harker during his visit to Dracula’s Transylvania castle. The sexy demeanor of these dancers was topped only by Lucy's as she was ultimately taken in by Dracula. With Schwartz dressed in a sheer red nightgown over clothing that matched her skin tone, her pas de deux with Rubio was the lustiest encounter of the evening. While they danced, Schwartz's gown would ride up her body and give the impression of her being nude underneath, the shock of which was only overpowered by a realistic special effect employed when Dracula bit her neck, and sent a wash of dark blood down her chest.

Lucy was eventually staked through the heart under the order of Jacob Lyon’s Dr. Van Helsing, called in to diagnose what was wrong with the now-erratic woman. With his new bride truly dead, Dracula then vied for the affections of Jonathan's fiancé, Emily Kate Long’s innocent Mina Murray-Harker, who became the bait in a final battle between Van Helsing and Dracula that contrasted Lyon’s technique with Rubio's grace.

But all throughout the production, it was evident why Ballet Quad Cities’ Dracula, with Rubio returning in the role, is so often part of the company’s seasons. Carter’s choreography creates a story that’s easy to follow – although it does require the aid of the program's thorough plot description to understand the characters – and the sexuality of the piece is intoxicating, with enough horrific elements added to both shock and please during its hour-long performance.

 

For information on the rest of Ballet Quad Cities' 2013-14 season, call (309)786-3779 or visit BalletQuadCities.com.

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