Originally created 09/22/05

New blood lets Augusta Ballet restage 'Dracula' with buckets of biting humor



At the Augusta Ballet, everything old is new again.

On Friday, the ballet opens its comic take on the blood-sucking classic Dracula. It's a company chestnut, having been staged several times since its 1993 premiere. Approaching the silent-movie slapstick and flapper flair of the piece has been very much like going back to the drawing board.

"I'm the only one in the cast that has done this before, well, me and (cast member) Richard Justice," said resident choreographer Peter Powlus. "For everyone else, it's brand new."

Most notably, it's new for dancer Rider Vierling, who takes on the role of the undead count. Artistic director Zanne Colton said that having a dancer with Mr. Vierling's skills was necessary before the ballet could consider staging the piece again.

"This piece was definitely choreographed for a person (dancer Ken Busbin) who was a larger-than-life kind of individual," Ms. Colton said. "So in thinking about restaging this, you realize that you just can't do it until you have another personality that can take this role."

Mr. Vierling said the shadow of the vampire looms large over the Augusta Ballet. He said he heard about the production long before he took the role.

"I would talk to people, and they would say 'Oh, you're dancing with the Augusta Ballet. I love that Dracula,'" he said.

Mr. Vierling said what helped is the tone of the piece. Rather than looking to the pages of a gothic romance for inspiration, the ballet looks to silent-film comedies. It's a broadly humourous piece incorporating early 20th century dance, music and a lot of tongue-in-cheek humor.

"I had done Dracula before, in a very dark production," Mr. Vierling said. "I mean it was dark, gothic and ... well ... dark. So it has been interesting, and freeing in a way, coming into this Dracula where I'm really sort of the king of the court jesters."

Mr. Powlus said that broad, slapstick style has been the biggest challenge in Dracula. What's difficult, he said, is establishing how over the top they actually can be.

"It think that's been a stretch for some, seeing how broad we need to go," he said. "And it's tough. Comedy is no less difficult than drama and people are discovering that."

Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626 or steven.uhles@augustachronicle.com.

ON STAGE

WHAT: Dracula, presented by the Augusta Ballet

WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday and 3 p.m. Saturday

WHERE: The Imperial Theatre, 745 Broad St.

COST: $17-$40; call 261-0555