It’s that time of year again. Around here, the start of the holiday season isn’t signaled by sleigh bells or turkey and stuffing, but by fangs. Attending Columbia City Ballet’s annual production of Dracula: Ballet with a Bite has become almost as much of a tradition as seeing one of Columbia’s many productions of the Nutcracker. Yes, you’ve heard the tunes before, but there’s something about those few moments before the curtain goes up when creepy sounds flood the Koger Center — there’s the ridiculous sensation that a bat actually might flap its gnarly wings over your head — and then the music starts. Thomas Semanski’s seductive cadence booms and, before you know it, you’re tapping your feet and boogeying just a little in your seat.
Let’s face it, what the Nutcracker is to the younger set, Dracula is to balletomanes who like a little gore in their choreography. Sure, the Nutcracker might have cute kids, Petipa, and a snowy land enchanted by anthropomorphic dancing candies – but, I’ll just say it, Dracula has hotties. Dancing hotties. Talented hotties. Scantily clad female hotties (yes, if you’re wondering, it is very weird to be writing this about one’s own kid) and muscular male hotties with shirts ripped to shreds in all the right places.
And then there’s the ripped Romanian himself.
Principal Dancer Robert Michalski embraces the role of Dracula like no one before him. Both terrifying and enticing at the same time, Michalski has mastered the art of transforming from the tender-hearted father of two that friends and colleagues in real life know him to be into the kind of two-legged monster you want to hide your own daughters from. A veteran dancer, Michalski’s years in dance have earned him an enviable stage presence, and though he admits to not actually dancing so much in this role, his balletic movements coupled with his menacing acting have raised the bar on what local ballet audiences have come to expect from story ballets. Michalski isn’t just a dancer, he is an actor.
The contemporary choreography and catchy tunes are enough to bring audiences back year after year, if for no other reason than the fun of it all. But even more importantly, given that city ballet artistic director William Starrett has established a reputation for keeping his dancers around for a while (rather than coming up with a brand new corps de ballet every season) means that almost every dancer on the stage for this season’s performance of the ballet has been there before, performing the same role. What this means to the audience is that we get to see dancers who have become experts at the parts they perform. (This, of course, does not include the children’s roles which do tend to change as the young dancers progress in their training.) This is not the case with every ballet you’ll see — it is a distinctive and not-always-common characteristic of a recurring ballet production and a consistent corps de ballet and principal dancers. It is something that Columbia ballet audiences are fortunate to be able to witness.
And again, on top of all this is the fun of it all.
And don’t forget the hotties.
Columbia City Ballet presents Dracula: Ballet with A Bite at the Koger Center, running from Thursday, Oct. 25 – Saturday, Oct. 27, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at Capitol Tickets, online at www.capitoltickets.com, or by calling (803) 251-2222. University students are encouraged to take advantage of special discount student pricing on Thursday, Oct. 25: all tickets are $10 with a valid student i.d.