Dracula will swoop down for Halloween appearance in Modesto, for two nights only

Mario Labrador and Nicole Firpo are principal dancers in the Central West Ballet production of Dracula at Central West Ballet studio in Modesto, Calif., on Thursday, Sept. 27, 2018.
Mario Labrador and Nicole Firpo are principal dancers in the Central West Ballet production of Dracula at Central West Ballet studio in Modesto, Calif., on Thursday, Sept. 27, 2018. aalfaro@modbee.com

Central West Ballet will sink its fangs into this year’s Halloween-themed presentation.

“Dracula,” a new production created by artistic director Rene Daveluy, premieres Oct. 19 and 20 at the Gallo Center for the Arts. CWB also will take the ballet on the road with a show Oct. 27 at the Grand Theatre in Tracy.

Daveluy created the music and choreography for “Dracula”, based on the Bram Stoker Gothic novel. The two-day production features a multimedia experience, as well as recorded narration, including CWB Board President Hugh Rose III lending his deep voice as the older Count Dracula.

This continues a relatively new tradition of presenting a Halloween-themed ballet for CWB, with past seasons featuring an original production of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.”

“We had been running ‘Legend of Sleepy Hollow’ for the last three years and felt that we needed to give ‘Sleepy Hollow’ a rest and focus on something new for Halloween,” Daveluy said in an email interview. “Dracula became the next choice, simply because of the story’s charismatic protagonist and powerful presence.”

Daveluy said much effort is being made to stay true to the novel, “albeit in an evocative way.”

“...We have created wonderful dances to suit the ballet format,” he said. “Another example is that we have taken creative freedom in involving Dracula’s three brides into more ballet scenes, such as a ballroom scene. Other changes are about time shifting logistics that pertain more to the dance scenes so that everything flows well from a ballet standpoint.

“Otherwise, Stoker’s original vision prevails. We wanted to respect the novel’s main qualities, such as the structure of accounts from different journals on Count Dracula by the characters. “

Like the CWB productions of “Sleepy Hollow,” backdrops will include a mixture of projections to enhance the audience experience, he said. There also will be new elements, such as walls for the castle and various tables for scenes in London and Transylvania.

Costuming will be period-appropriate for the late 1870s. “We also have some extensive Eastern European Gypsy dance numbers and those costumes are colorful and adorned in the classic Gypsy style, much like the Gypsy characters in the new Sherlock Holmes movies starring Robert Downey Jr.,” Daveluy added.

Lead dancers for the production will change each night. For Oct. 19, the cast is lead by Nicole Firpo as Mina Murray and Aaron Gulevich as Young Dracula. Mario Vitale Labrador will play Jonathan Harker and Erin McMahon is Lucy Westenra. On Oct. 20, lead dancers will be Sarah Weaver as Mina Murray and Grant Landon as Young Dracula; Mario Vitale Labrador returns as Jonathan Harker with Noelle Im as Lucy Westenra.

“The dancers are very excited to dance this particular ballet,” Daveluy said. “ ‘Dracula’ lends itself to role playing for everyone and the dances are electrifying. The story is dramatic and gives our dancers an opportunity to add more depth to their characters. The crew also has expressed their excitement with ‘Dracula,’ it gives them something creative and different to bring to the stage in the story ballet style.”

The Halloween programs have become a successful part of CWB’s seasons. “We have been encouraged by the community’s reaction to our Halloween themes ever since the premiere of ‘Legend of Sleepy Hollow’ in 2015. These shows have been very much appreciated and so the prospect of doing more of these themes have given us an original platform on which to expand our seasons.”

“Dracula” is recommended for ages 10 and up. But they recommend parents make their own decisions for their children, as Dracula is a Gothic horror story. “The show is intense,” Daveluy said, “but we have taken great care in making the performance adequate for students. Much of the suspense and horror is portrayed by the strength and acting abilities of our dancers, and they excel at giving thrills to our audiences with their theatrical qualities.”

Central West Ballet’s “Dracula”

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, Oct. 19-20; Oct. 20 show includes an interpreter for the hearing impaired

WHERE: Gallo Center for the Arts, 1000 I St., Modesto

TICKETS: $25-$35

ONLINE: galloarts.org