“Dracula”, Stunning Ballet by Island Moving Company, Premiered at Belcourt Castle

Joan Martin & Andrew Sandorfi

In another daringly innovative and masterful performance, The Island Moving Company created a truly memorable – not to mention downright ghoulish – opening night gala for the attendees of “Dracula”. The ballet, based on the 1897 novel by Bram Stoker, took place in Newport’s most appropriately eerie mansion: Belcourt Castle. With its secret passageways, Gothic library, and enormous “haunted” ballroom, one could easily envision Count Dracula in residence.

Wilkes Carr & Ryana Barbosa

 

The current owners and residents of one of Dracula’s three castles in Romania (formerly Transylvania), the elegant Archduke Dominic and Archduchess Nella Habsburg attended the gala, playing the host and hostess in the ballet’s first scene. Guests arrived wrapped in dark cloaks, tuxedos, and vampiress gowns, their faces obscured by colorful masks and ghostly face paint, and were soon ushered into an antechamber where Dominique Alfandre, IMC’s Executive Director, stood high on the antique wooden stairwell and warned that the dance would be “dangerously close.” The audience would be prompted to follow the dancers from room to room in the great mansion.

Sid & Jane Goehring, Brooke Ven Gerbig, Theodora Aspegren & Rob Bailey


With a few shivers of nervous anticipation, the crowd - including Board members Ellen Barnes and Joan Martin, along with Theodora Aspegren, Rob Bailey, and Kate Spinella - assembled in the mammoth downstairs dining room of the manse. Bright lights opened upon a ballroom scene filled with colorfully dressed couples twirling in graceful synchronization, their faces covered by all different types of masks in animal shapes, shining sequins, and feathers. The Habsburgs entered the scene and made their way to two elevated seats. The music by composer Felix Ventouras began with piano and drums, incorporating Latin, Slavic, and Middle Eastern influences. An ensemble of gypsy girls in peasant costumes arrived and danced gaily.

Thomas Palmer, Kate Spinella, and Karl Willers


The next scene took a distinct turn for the sensual, with Count Dracula - performed by the lithe, acrobatic, and perfectly cast David DuBois - shown being caressed and awakened from his coffin by his brides, young servant girls in lacy red and black corsets. Dracula then revealed his hellish character, dancing almost naked about the room in graceful yet frenetic movements. The choreography of IMC’s Creative Director, Miki Ohlsen, was terrific, both strange and exciting.

Harle Tinney of Belcourt Castle & Dominique Alfandre of The Island Moving Company


Chimes sounded, and the ensemble led the audience with drums and cymbals into the library to see a filmed segment depicting a coach ride to the next scene: a pas de deux between Dracula and Jonathan Harker, a solicitor from London, danced by Gregg Saulnier. Their ‘conversation’ became heated as Dracula began to nearly attack and dominate Jonathan. The music was then joined by strings, which changed the confrontational mood entirely.


The audience was led to the upstairs hallway, where they suddenly began to hear ghostly whispers of “Where is he? Have you seen him? We have to catch him! We have to find him!” as female dancers moved throughout the crowd searching for the missing Harker. He was found sleeping in a giant canopy bed situated underneath a recessed organ in Belcourt’s massive, chapel-inspired upstairs ballroom. The audience gasped as a dancer in a filmy red bodysuit emerged from a balcony window and began to slowly descend two soft ropes hanging from the very top of the arched ceiling, high above the bed. She performed acrobatics like those in Cirque du Soleil. The contortions involved in this scene were astonishing, and hauntingly beautiful. The vampire bride descended into Jonathan’s bed and was later joined by her two counterparts, the roles played by Meredith Baer, Brooke DiFrancesco, and Christine Sandorfi.

Carl & Gail Romanovich, Marilyn Woloohojian


The attempts to seduce Jonathan away from his fiancé Mina were unsuccessful. The next scene portrayed Mina with her sister Lucy, played by Lilia Ortola and Kristy Reynolds. The London scenes in Lucy’s house also featured Eddie Camarra as Van Helsing, professional vampire killer, and Shane Farrell as Arthur Holmwood, Lucy’s fiancé.

Ben Lovesky, Ellen Barnes, Archduke Dominic and Archduchess Nella Habsburg, Harle Tinney of Belcourt Castle


After the two couples danced another lighthearted pas de deux of friendship, Dracula entered unexpectedly from one of the back windows of the chapel’s courtyard balcony, and in a horrifying scene, lured and bit Lucy in classic vampire fashion, leaving her motionless body upon a chaise longue. When Mina returned to find her sister, she too was greeted by the cunning Dracula, who then quickly bit her as well. The audience looked up, startled, as the three male protagonists chased Dracula through a recess behind the upstairs windows of the chapel, and then followed quickly out to the second floor stairwell, where the pursuit of the Count was projected on black and white film. There was a sad throb of horrible destiny in both the music and choreography as the three men chased Dracula down the stairs, and again on film, the audience witnessed the ghastly climax in the courtyard, where Van Helsing impaled the vampire upon a pitchfork.

Krissy Korney, Shauna Maguire, Hayden Maguire, Annie Langan & Brooke de Francesco


Following these macabre scenes was a death dirge, performed with castanets by the ensemble. In red lighting, Mina, who appeared to have become a vampire herself, bit Jonathan and concluded the story.

 

Patrons, board members, and the audience mingled with the dancers for a buffet in the downstairs dining room following the performance.
--A.G.

 

Choreographer Miki Ohlsen of IMC, Alden Tucker

 

Dominique Alfandre speaking to audience

 

Harle Tinney with the Archduke & Archduchess Habsburg

 

Miki Ohlsen with Wilkes Carr and  Ryana Barbosa

 

The crowd at Dracula intermission

 

Dancers Krissy Korney, Kristy Reynolds & Brooke de Francesco

 

Christine Sandorfi

 

Erin and Thomas Ribeiro at post performance buffet

 

Dracula title role dancer David Dubois with Lisa Reimer

 

Dancer Gregg Saulnier, Kate Spinella, and Patrick Notaro

 

Guests at the post-performance buffet at Belcourt Castle

 

Post performance accolades by audience

 

 
 
 

 

 


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