COLUMBIA, SC What started as a “crazy idea” at a Venice Beach, Calif., brunch will bring an actor to the Koger Center stage this weekend, in his first foray into ballet.
Grant Show will dance – and act – the titular role in the Columbia City Ballet’s annual production of “Dracula” in three performances Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
Show first met the ballet’s executive and artistic director William Starrett through Show’s wife, Katherine LaNasa, an actress who used to dance with Starrett. He was a guest at the couple’s 2012 wedding. When the three met in Venice Beach this summer, Starrett suggested Show come to Columbia for the role.
Show is best known for playing Jake Hansen in the ’90s nighttime soap “Melrose Place,” for five seasons. He has kept busy on television with roles on “Private Practice” and “Big Love.” He also will be in the second season of the Lifetime series “Devious Maids.”
While casting an actor who has never done ballet before in the production’s title role may seem like a strange position, Starrett’s "Dracula" has always been something of an actor’s role.
“When I originally created ‘Dracula’ 20 years ago, Dracula was created for an actor,” Starrett said. “Dracula is very austere, very all-knowing, so it doesn’t suit the character to be jumping and hopping around and spinning. It makes it more suspenseful if he is more menacing and powerful.”
The original Dracula was Ron Hale, an actor with whom Show worked on “General Hospital.”
“That helped me in getting Grant to agree to take on this project,” Starrett said.
For Show, the opportunity to play Dracula also was an opportunity to grow as an artist. He was initially looking to expand his horizons into Broadway plays and musicals, Starrett said, and “Dracula” was an opportunity to try something new.
“It’s like diving into the deep end of the pool. You have to sink or swim,” Show said. “I’m never going to be a ballet dancer, that’s for sure, but I don’t use my physicality or my athleticism very much in my work, and this allows me to do that.”
As a new dancer, Show recognizes he has some “limitations” in what he can do. He said he’s had to reconsider his own ideas of ballet.
“My limitations will make the company more creative. That’s why (Starrett) brings non-dancers into this production,” Show said. “I had a preconceived notion of what dancing was, and I’m having to unlearn that. I’m definitely not a graceful, light on the feet kind of guy, and trying to be that gets in the way of being graceful. I have to get out of my head.”
Both actors and dancers have played Dracula in Starrett’s production before, but Show’s expertise has rubbed off on Columbia City Ballet’s dancers, Starrett said.
“He’s also made the dancers reassess their entire character approach from a fresh perspective,” Starrett said.
In addition to its atypical casting, “Dracula” is an atypical ballet. It blends classical music and movement with contemporary dance set to upbeat electronic music, all while telling the story of Dracula.
“It has a lot of techno and other current music with some very classical passages,” Starrett said. “The movements are the same. Some of the movements are very classical and proper while others are more techno and modern.”
This blend of the old and the new is an excellent way to introduce those who think ballet is “intimidating” or “stuffy,” Starrett said.
“It’s really high-energy. It’s sort of a format of a Broadway show; it’s really fast-paced,” Starrett said. “The interesting thing is that we do it annually, so it’s at a very, very, very high level.
"We try to top ourselves every year. It’s a real terrific night out and a terrific performance.”