Original Ballet “Dracula” is a valentine of a different kind

Alicia Bowyer as Mina Harker in Dracula 2012. Photo by Holger Waschinski

By Bonnie Gordon

Get ready for heart stopping romance, action and drama this weekend, as The New Mexico Dance Theater Performance Company (NMDT–PC), under the direction of Susan Baker-Dillingham presents “Dracula.”

NMDT–PC is a non-profit training ground for pre-professional dancers located in Los Alamos. During its seven years history, NMDT has gained acclaim for its original story ballets choreographed by Baker-Dillingham, including “Dracula,” “Snow White,” “Cinderella,” “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” “Alice,” “Aladdin,” and “A Christmas Carol.”

This will be the third time the company has performed “Dracula,” which has proved to be an audience favorite since its premiere in the fall of 2006.

“”Dracula” has grown in popularity mainly due to word of mouth, Baker-Dillingham said. “Part of my goal as a director is to always try and run the gamut of emotions during a ballet … The popularity of ‘Dracula’ is remarkable due to the emotional core the story provides it and the emotional impact it takes the audience through.

All NMDT-PC ballets have been stunning and memorable in that way, not just “Dracula, she said. Creating an original ballet is a long and difficult process.

“I plan at least two years ahead and generally stories come to mind based on the dancers themselves,” Baker-Dillingham said. “When I decide on a book that suits the dancers I usually read it twice and take notes as I go. During this process my directorial mind takes over and the creative juices begin to flow. As I read and discover what the possibilities can be for the dancers involved, I also imagine what visual impact can be made on the audience.

“I try my best to make my ballets intriguing for both dancer and audience member by thinking about how I would want the complete experience to be for me if I were on the stage or watching the ballet. I have 20 years of professional dance experience to draw from which helps the process come into fruition.”

Principle dancers in this incarnation of “Dracula” include Alicia Bowyer, Matthew Connor Davenport, Gary Cooper, Justin Dunn and Alice Veirs.

“The dancers have admirably put their hearts and souls into learning the choreography and adapting to their character’s role. Certainly each dancer dances and portrays their role differently than the original cast and demonstrates their own interpretation,” Baker Dillingham said. “Thankfully the dancers are so smart and so versatile we have pulled this repeat of “Dracula” together in only six weeks.”

All of the dancers are company members. Playing principal roles in a production provides invaluable experience for the young company dancers.

“I do everything possible to avoid using guest artists since I want the dancers to become professional dancers one day themselves if that is the path they choose to take,” Baker Dillingham said. “The only way to promote professional dancers is to give them pre-professional experiences on the stage.

“This includes not only interesting, varied and challenging choreography, but gorgeous costumes hand tailored to their bodies, incredible sets to perform in front of, performing to music that is often extremely hard to count, becoming actors and actresses by exploring the wide range of roles they are given to dance, and learning how to “carry” a ballet in a principle role.”

Professional set designer Holly Haas designed the “Dracula” sets in 2006 and has refurbished them for this production. Haas and Baker-Dillingham have worked together on many NMDT-PC productions including” “Snow White,” “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” “Alice,” “Aladdin” and “A Christmas Carol” as well as “Dracula.” 

“Ross Mason is the lighting designer and must be given many kudos for continuing to make the Duane W. Smith auditorium the best place it can be to perform in,” Baker-Dillingham said. “Holger Waschinski has done a fantastic job of recreating the black and white movies that open each act of the ballet. His wife, also NMDT-PC ballet mistress, Selena Offenberg, runs sound.”

NMDT-PC collaborates with other local organizations for many of its productions and for “Dracula” the company is partnering with Village Arts.

Village Arts will be present in the lobby with a variety of card-making materials. Cards created by audience members and directed to local businesses, restaurants, and organizations will be on display at Village Arts through the end of February, after which they will be hand delivered by Village Arts staff. Village Arts staffers in the audience will provide even more surprises during the show.

Dracula” is suitable for all ages. The drama has high emotional impact, but it’s not a “scary” production.

Performances take place on Friday, Feb. 17 at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, Feb. 18, at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; and Sunday, Feb. 19, at 2 p.m. All performances will be held at the Duane W. Smith Auditorium on the Los Alamos High School campus, 1300 Diamond Dr. 

Gary Cooper and Alicia Bowyer, Dracula 2012. Photo by Holger Waschinski


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