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Review: City Ballet keeps 'Dracula' fresh

This year’s “Dracula” marks the 14th run for Columbia City Ballet; I’ve now seen it seven times. If you’ve seen it once, twice, three times, why go back to the Koger Center again? Because the ballet — apart from being a local Halloween tradition around here — only gets better with each performance.

Last year, the ballet’s artistic director, William Starrett, revamped the casting with the promotion of ballerinas Regina Willoughby and Victoria Cholkas to the leading parts of Lucy Westenra and the Red Maiden, respectively. Willoughby and Cholkas, who took to the roles as if they had been born to dance them, have only become more entrancing.

Willoughby establishes her presence from the moment she takes the stage with her beau, danced by Mark Krieger . As they begin a sweet, flirtatious pas de deux, it appears as if Willoughby simply floats through the air — owing not a little bit to the seamless partnering of Krieger, a superb dancer in his own right as showcased in brief solos during the final act.

Willoughby's performance continues to captivate as she “sleepwalks” into the clutches of Dracula, danced again this year by Robert Michalski. Willoughby allows her head and limbs to loll languidly as Michalski shifts, lifts and turns her.

Cholkas, like Willoughby, showcases her abundance of talent by performing without any outward signs of effort.

Further, the professionalism and talent that marks the company’s seasoned dancers is obviously being passed on to the next generation. Nicole Carrion , a member of the ballet’s apprentice company, reprised her role as Victoria Harker. Carrion has grown significantly in both stage presence and precision since last season. There is no doubt that this young lady is a star in the making.

Added to the talent on the stage is the talent behind it. Once again, lighting designer Barry Sparks creates the illusions of a bat-filled cave, vast wilderness and supernatural presences by creatively manipulating standard effects timed perfectly with the score (and occasionally supplemented with manufactured smoke).

“Dracula” continues with shows at 7:30 and 10 tonight and 7:30 p.m. Saturday. Call (803) 251-2222 or go to www.capitoltickets.com.

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