What do you think of when you hear the word “ballet”? The color pink? Tights and tutus? A mouse king fighting a wooden man that magically comes to life? While these aspects definitely apply, the art form of ballet can also be dark, mysterious, and full of suspense
This past week, first-year UD students had the opportunity to attend Dracula: Bloodlines performed by Dayton Ballet. The dancers were accompanied by singers from the Dayton Opera and musicians from the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra, making the First Year Arts Immersion experience truly collaborative.
This ominous production tells the story of Vlad, a young soldier, who falls under the spell of Lilith, the hauntingly beautiful queen of vampires. Vlad, who becomes Dracula, fights between his mortal emotions and villainous instincts. The stunning production that combined an original prequel with the infamous Bram Stoker story put everyone in the Halloween spirit.
As someone who has studied ballet for most of my life, I was thrilled to attend, and even more elated to meet some of the cast. Prior to the performance, I had the opportunity to talk with dancers Jocelyn Green and Isaac Jones. Green played the role of Lilith and Jones played the roles of Vlad and Dracula.
The two dancers, full of elegance and poise on and off the stage, discussed their respective roles. Green, who played Lilith in the 2016 production, was eager to find new ways to relate to her character. She delved deeper into Lilith’s motives behind manipulating Vlad and the other men she’s controlled.
“She’s a powerful character and she’s very dark, but I have to sort of sympathize with her in a way… I think she’s been scorned by men in the past and that’s what sort of turned her into this woman who wants revenge on all men and wants to make them her play things. I think it comes from a place of her being hurt in the past and also wanting to be in control now and not letting anybody else control her.”
Jones, who performed Dracula for the first time in his career, touched on the challenge of playing a character who is fighting an internal and external battle throughout the production.
“[In] this version [Dracula] is a bit more of a victim of circumstance. And even as the show progresses in Act II, it’s still very much about him wanting his old life back and wanting to have back what he lost which I think is something that we all connect to in some way.”
Green and Jones both laughed at how different their evil characters were from their every day personalities. Part of the fun, they agreed, was the freedom to explore someone completely different than themselves.
The dancers expressed their appreciation for Dayton Ballet and the surrounding community. Green, who is in her fifth season with the company, and Jones, who is in his second season, love the opportunities that Dayton Ballet provides professional dancers.
Jones shared, “What’s nice about Dayton Ballet is that every show can be different opportunities for people… we all can get little moments throughout a season, which is always a nice thing and I think it creates a more encouraging atmosphere which in ballet can be a challenge.”
Green agreed, and discussed the close-knit relationship that the company members have with one another.
“We’re all in it together. We work six-day weeks, so we see a lot of each other, and you have to have in a company this small, you have to really have that family vibe.”
According to the dancers, Dayton Ballet receives a tremendous amount of support from the community. This past week, the students of the University of Dayton joined the wide array of fans in the audience. Green and Jones hoped that our students attending would be open-minded to seeing a new interpretation of a classic story told strictly through movement and song.
Green expressed, “I think there is something universal about dance. It’s the only art form where your body is the instrument, and everyone can relate to that. Getting an emotion across that is universal, I think, is really special and could touch people in so different ways.”
I think that I speak for most of the UD students that saw the show when I say, “Dracula: Bloodlines” was an innovative and captivating performance that perfectly celebrated the arts.
Photos courtesy of Scott Robbins.