Columbia City Ballet’s annual October production has earned its place as a local tradition for both the dance aficionado and the ballet novice. Dracula: Ballet with a Bite is based on the classic Bram Stoker novel, but embellished with modern undertones alluding to vampires from pop culture such as Twilight and True Blood. It’s the one ballet each year that husbands and boyfriends heartily attend because they can count on seeing more cleavage and bare legs than tutus and men in tights.
This year, there is also a treat for the ladies. They can feast their eyes on Grant Show, best known for his role as Jake Hanson on Melrose Place from 1992 to 1997. He plays Dracula and is making his ballet debut in South Carolina.
Like a magician pulling rabbits from a hat, City Ballet Artistic Director William Starrett pumps renewed vitality and star appeal into what could become a tired and hackneyed show after its 22-year run. Fear not. This performance guarantees to thrill both new and veteran Dracula fans.
It’s not the first time Starrett has turned to Hollywood for some star appeal. When the ballet premiered in 1991, Starrett cast soap opera star Ron Hale (General Hospital and Ryan’s Hope) as Dracula.
This year, the dark and brooding ancient vampire is once again more of a leading man than an accomplished dancer. Show is the first to admit that he’s a bit out of his element.
“I’m not a dancer, and I’m not particularly graceful,” he says.
He arrived in Columbia from Hollywood last week, and dove right in to preparing for his role by watching the dancers rehearse. What he saw inspired him.
“I am amazed at what these dancers can do, and they pick up the choreography so fast,” he says.
He spent the week learning his own choreography and becoming acquainted with his new character.
“It takes a little longer for me to pick this up as a non-dancer, but I am really excited to have the opportunity to use my physicality on stage.”
He says the transition from screen to stage is fun, and he’s enjoyed crafting his own interpretation of Count Dracula.
“This is a great production because the music is sexy, the dancers are sexy, and almost everyone can enjoy some aspect of it.”
So, how did Show end up in Columbia?
Starrett is friends with Show’s wife, Katherine LaNasa, a former ballerina who is also a television actress. They danced together at Ballet West many years ago and kept in touch. LaNasa and Show married last year, and while visiting them in California, Starrett pitched the idea of Show as Dracula.
The company’s ballet mistress, Patricia Miller, says working with him has been exciting for her and the dancers.
“We threw a lot at him in just three days, and because he’s an actor, he really has a different perspective that he brings to the role,” Miller says.
She emphasizes that he’s been very down to earth, and said it was his idea to ride the bus to Savannah last weekend with the company members as they took their show on the road.
“I have so much respect for him because he is grounded, personable, and gracious,” Miller says.
Miller also says this year’s production has some new elements, including a totally revamped opening act.
The enchanting Regina Willoughby reprises her role as Lucy Westenra, a vivacious young woman who undergoes an unforgettable transformation. Male soloists include Journy Wilkes-Davis, Philip Ingrassia and newcomer Jordan Nelson, formerly of Ballet Chicago.
Dracula — with a guest star, scenic magic by Lighting Director Barry Sparks and exquisite dancing — is a real treat this Halloween that shouldn’t be missed.
Dracula: Ballet with a Bite runs Thursday, Oct. 24 through Saturday, Oct. 26 at the Koger Center. Performances start at 7:30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased online at capitoltickets.com or by calling 251-2222. University students are encouraged to take advantage of special discount student pricing on Thursday, when all tickets are $10 with a valid student ID.
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