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As the Coffin Opens: 9 things you didn’t know about Dracula

Based on Bram Stoker’s classic, the eerie, ghoulish performance of Columbia City Ballet’s “Dracula” is packed with spine-chilling effects, seductive costumes and gripping choreography.
Based on Bram Stoker’s classic, the eerie, ghoulish performance of Columbia City Ballet’s “Dracula” is packed with spine-chilling effects, seductive costumes and gripping choreography. Columbia City Ballet

Ghoulish, gothic and seductive, the Columbia City Ballet’s production of Dracula: Ballet with a Bite opens at the Koger Center on Friday, Oct. 26 for a two-day run. Rife with action, spectacular dancing and cool special effects, Dracula made its premiere in Columbia 27 years ago and has been a Halloween tradition ever since.

Here are nine things you might not know about Dracula and the man who inspired it.

Columbia City Ballet Artistic and Executive Director William Starrett wrote the ballet with men in mind. “When I sat down to write the ballet, my audience was the sports-minded guy who was attending the ballet to please his spouse or girlfriend,” he says. “Dracula is fast-paced, with lots of action and a story that’s easy to follow.”

You won’t see any tutus. “Dracula breaks down a lot of stereotypes about ballet,” Starrett said. “This ballet is very physical and sensual, with lots of special effects, amazing music and dramatic lighting. If you’re expecting to see high school girls in fluffy costumes you’ll be disappointed.”

Dracula: Ballet with a Bite has won numerous awards. Dance magazine named it one of the top five productions of Dracula in the world.

Bobby Milik, the ballet’s new technical director, has added a number of special effects, including one involving bats, to this year’s performances.

Claire Richards Rapp, who makes her debut as Lucy this season after two seasons as understudy, is one of just three dancers to perform the role since 1991. “Claire brings great depth of character and deep artistry to this role,” Starrett said. “She’s got five brothers, too, which means you don’t want to mess with her, even if you’re a vampire.”

The ballet is based on Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel, “Dracula.” It was the author’s only successful literary work.

The legend of Dracula is based on Vlad III Dracula, a 15th-century Romanian prince whose penchant for impaling his enemies—most notably Ottoman warriors—led him to acquire the moniker Vlad Tepes, or Vlad the Impaler.

Unlike the real Dracula, Columbia City Ballet’s version is all about seduction. “His victims think they’re going to be his lover, but they’re really going to be his dinner,” laughs Starrett.

Costumes are encouraged; wear yours — the sassier the better — to the Saturday performance and you could win $100.

Katie McElveen, Special to GoColumbia

If You Go

Dracula: Ballet with a Bite

When: 7 p.m. Oct. 26-27

Where: The Koger Center for the Arts, 1051 Greene St.

Tickets: $20-$52; $11 for students. To order, visit kogercenterforthearts.com

Dracula’s Dungeon: Following the Oct. 26 performance, Columbia City Ballet will host Gala with a Bite: Dracula’s Dungeon at the Loft space of the Columbia Museum of Art. This Halloween soiree will be filled with music and entertainment, a raffle, silent auction, heavy hors d’oeuvres and other ghoulish delights. Proceeds from the gala will benefit the ballet’s Educational Outreach Programs as well as the preservation of performance sets and costumes. Cocktail attire is suggested, with costumes and masks strongly encouraged. Single tickets are $85 ($75 for young professionals); couples save $10. For more information visit columbiacityballet.com

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