Dance Review: Dracula

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Nashville Ballet's "Dracula" is a highly entertaining dance performance you can really sink your teeth into at TPAC, Oct. 22 - 24.

Nashville Ballet presents:
Dracula (Oct. 22 – 24; Ages 14 and older)
TPAC’s Polk Theater
505 Deaderick St., Nashville
615-782-4040 •
Remaining show times: Fri – Sat 7:30 p.m.
Tickets: $28 – $68

It’s always a treat to experience Nashville Ballet’s modern dance offerings, and it’s current presentation this weekend is some of the best in the company’s history.

The three separate pieces comprising the evening are beautifully sensual and elegant with definite elements of eroticism along the way (thus, this outing’s not suitable for small children — but it’s good for older kids or a perfect date night with your S.O.).

The first two segments run less than 15 minutes each. Kicking things off is “Afternoon of Faun,” featuring Salvatore Aiello’s choreography from 1988 and based on Vaslav Nijinsky’s ballet from 1912. Nicolaus Scheuer give a bold performance as Faun, a mythological creature who encounters four nymphs in the forest (Katie Eliason, Keenan McLaren Hartman, Katie Vasilopoulos and Kristin Young). With live accompaniment by pianist Melissa Rose and Flutist Philip Dikeman, the dancers present a highly charged emotional performance with themes of desire and rejection.

The second piece, “Satto,” also an Aiello work, features exquisite staging by Ballet Master Timothy Rinehhart Yeager. Two magnificent dancers, Brett Sjoblom and Mollie Sansone, perform as a wind god and leaf, respectively. The work draws from a Japanese legend, and it’s one of the most beautiful performances of contemporary dance I’ve experienced. Sjoblom and Sansone make a divine duo with fluid movement that is powerful, engaging and breathtaking.

After a 15-minute intermission, the main event takes stage. “Dracula” is the brainchild of Nashville Ballet Artistic Director & CEO Paul Vasterling. Vasterling serves as chroegrapher for the spectacular, hour-long performance, and he also arranged the score featuring music by Bohuslav Martinu — the musical backdrop for “Dracula” is a mix of pre-recorded music along with live segments by pianist Melissa Rose and cellist Matt Walker.

A loose interpretation of Bram Stoker’s classic novel about the most famous blood-sucking vampire, Vasterling’s “Dracula” is stunning on all counts. Seasoned company member Jon Upleger stars in the title role, bringing bold, dramatic, seductive flair to the mesmerizing master of the undead.

Christopher Stuart (Jonathan), Alexandra Meister (Lucy), Kayla Rowser (Mina) and Augusto Cezar (Renfield) join Upleger with prominent roles in the story, and along with an impressive cast of the Undead, this is a phenomenal retelling of the story and one that die-hard vampire fans will adore. There is a brief moment of nudity when Lucy fully submits to Dracula’s thrall, and the visual metaphor Vasterling uses with the dancers’ shoes coming off (from human life to vampire) is quite inventive.

Nashville Ballet continues to deliver an incredibly entertaining evening of the art of dance, and this is a performance you’ll want to sink your teeth into.

Chad Young is the managing editor and arts/entertainment editor for this publication.

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