The Daily Gamecock

Columbia City Ballet presents seductive, spooky 'Dracula: Ballet With a Bite'

"Dracula: Ballet With a Bite" is the Columbia City Ballet’s Halloween tradition. This performance debuted in Columbia in 1991 and gets better with age. While ballet is a traditional form of dance, this remixed version of "Dracula" mixes it up with a modern twist that attracts an excited and loyal audience.

Divided into three acts, “Dracula” begins innocently enough, in a quaint village with dancers charmingly dressed in antiquated clothes. Jonathan, danced by Philip Ingrassia, is a lost lawyer searching for his new client. He wanders through the village, only to be warned away and then given a garlic clove when he insists on continuing his journey.

When he finally reaches his destination, it’s clear that nothing good will happen in this creepy, foreboding mansion. Leonardo Victorino as Count Dracula makes his first appearance and invites Jonathan to dinner. Jonathan obliges and takes a seat at the dinner table, but Dracula has a different meal in mind. He makes an attempt at a bite, but Jonathan brushes him off and decides to go to bed, only to be woken by Dracula’s three henchmen, or henchwomen in this case. The three women attempt to seduce Jonathan in order to distract him from Dracula’s attempts at sucking his blood, but he remembers the clove of garlic and escapes.

Unfortunately, Dracula sneakily follows and kidnaps Jonathan’s daughter. Action ensues, and this ballet that began in an innocent, seemingly sweet village ends in seduction and death. A whirlwind of fight scenes, an eerie setting and fantastic sound effects create a dramatic ending that seems fitting for the nefarious Dracula.

If this storyline seems to veer from the more traditional and stereotypical ballet, the costuming, music and dance is a complete departure. Bonnie Boiter-Jolley, Autumn Hill and Claire Richards as Dracula’s scantily clad maidens stole the show with their frighteningly seductive performance. Their technique was impeccable and conveyed the high emotion that made this ballet both enthralling and fun.

Accompanying the maidens’ various dances was music that could almost be described as techno or electric as well as frightening sound effects. In one of the final scenes, the dancers perform to Muse’s "Uprising." Watching ballerinas perform to contemporary, popular music added a modern feel that is absent in most ballets.

Other elements of this performance tested the limits on what makes a stereotypical ballet. When Jonathan makes his first appearance as a traveling lawyer, he steps on stage with what appears to be a Louis Vuitton suitcase in hand. Contrasted with the traditional costuming on stage at the time, it’s an odd stylistic choice, but the oddities of this performance are what make it so interesting.

"Dracula: Ballet With a Bite" is conventional and modern, silly and scary, conservative and racy — it’s an exciting blend of old and new, and is so important because it both conserves the traditional storytelling of ballet while appealing to a fresh audience. It’s risky, scandalous, PG-13 and so much fun — everything a Halloween ballet should be.

Columbia City Ballet presents "Dracula: Ballet with A Bite" at the Koger Center Oct. 28 at 7 p.m. and Oct. 29 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased online at or in person at the Koger Center next to the Darla Moore School of Business.