‘Dracula’ performance is enchanting

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By Tom Hanlon

Count Dracula chose the residents of Los Alamos as his next victims on Feb. 17. The New Mexico Dance Theater Performance Company brought the Transylvania terror to the Duane Smith Auditorium with “Dracula,” the ballet.
The performance, adapted from the 1897 novel, “Dracula,” by Bram Stoker, was directed by Susan Baker-Dillingham and showcased two days of performances.
The cast consisted primarily of high school teens and was supported by the younger, junior and apprentice members of the troop. Some adult guests contributed to the cast.
The ballet was silent, so the actors communicated through their elaborate actions and dances. The exceptional concerto music contributed to the dramatic feel of the play.
The ballet began with a period of mood-setting, suspenseful music followed by a synopsis of Act I projected on a movie screen.
Words flickered in black and white, like an old 1920s horror film.
The first scene began with roughly two-dozen dancing Transylvania villagers, greeting young lawyer,  Jonathan Harker, (Justin Dunn) who arrived in a carriage drawn by ballerinas in fabulous horse costumes. The villagers warned Harker not to do business with the mysterious Count Dracula, but Harker continued on to the Count’s castle where he met the tall, dark-haired, fanged Dracula (convincingly played by Gary Cooper).
Harker is imprisoned by Dracula and is nearly bitten by the Count’s first victim and wife (McKenna Schoonover), before escaping.
Back in London, Harker’s wife Mina (Alicia Boywer), hosts a ball.
The dancing couples gracefully moved about the stage until Count Dracula appeared at the ball.
He moved to London and Mina sensed danger in the stranger. Mina’s friend, Lucy Westenra, (Alice Veirs) had many suitors, but accepted the marriage proposal of Arthur Holmwood, (Matthew Connor Davenport).
Lucy and Arthur performed a beautiful ballet waltz around the stage in celebration. The couple’s happiness is about to come to a screeching halt because Dracula decided that Lucy would be his next victim and attacked her in the night.
Act II began with Harker returning to London after a long illness. He found Lucy gravely ill and Dr. John Seward (Devon McCleskey) could not find a way to cure her. Seward asked his mentor Professor Abraham Van Helsing, (Mark Dunn) to help.
Van Helsing told them that Dracula is a vampire and that Lucy was under Dracula’s control. Lucy died and would soon become a vampire unless she was stabbed through the heart with a stake.
After staking Lucy, Van Helsing, Harker, Seward, Holmwood and Mina hunted down Dracula. They found him asleep on his boat at the seashore. Just before dawn, in a final, last dance, the five drove a stake through Dracula’s heart, ending the horror.
All the dancers did an incredible job in their parts. Despite the silence, they were able to clearly convey emotion through gestures, facial expressions and dance.
Their ability to show emotion and convey the message without speaking was amazing.
However, there were a couple of times when it appeared that some dancers were not synchronized with the rest of the dancers, but it was minor compared to the overall leaps and twirls that were performed with consistency.
The costumes, made by the cast and crew, (Kenda Bultman, costume designer), were clever and convincing of the time and setting of the performance.
The sets, made by Holly Haas, set designer, were just as detailed and fabulous. For example, the spooky walls of Dracula’s castle matched perfectly with the gargoyle ballerinas’ costumes, making them unnoticeable until they moved.
Ross Mason was in charge of lighting and did an excellent job. The lighting, from the castle’s torches to the giant tree shadows, to the seashore scene at dawn, made everything even more dramatic.
All in all, the performance was very entertaining. NMDT-PC’s “Dracula” captivated the audience, to include the many young children in the theater.