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'Dracula' revived as a reminder of dark love near Valentine's

Dracula pops up when he wants to, or when he's thirsty. But that's not the reason Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre's artistic director Terrence Orr is "very happy" to move the story from Halloween to Valentine's Day.

"It can be considered a love story on the dark side," he says, pointing to Dracula as a precursor to Edward in "The Twilight Saga."

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre will revive "Dracula" by Ben Stevenson at four performances Friday to Sunday at the Benedum Center, Downtown. It was a co-production with Houston Ballet, where Stevenson was artistic director, and was first seen in Pittsburgh in 1997.

"Ben Stevenson tells these wonderful full-length stories very well because he creates a wonderful ambiance around the story," Orr says. "He shows the innocence of the village and not (only for characters in) all young roles. He develops the characters of an old man and old woman, an innkeeper and his wife. And there's this other life in this huge castle in Transylvania."

Dracula is a great character to portray, according to ballet principal dancer Robert Moore. "He's a bloodthirsty -- I wouldn't call him a monster, but has a lot of passion. At one time, he was human and still has a somewhat-human quality. He has a deeper passion than just for blood. He tries to seduce all of his victims."

Stevenson's choreography goes from "stagnant movement into very fluid movement when you're trying to cast a spell and make them in your control," Moore says. "His steps are very powerful and his solo shows his lust for blood."

Careful research went into the production of the ballet, starting with a close reading of Bram Stoker's novel. Set designer Thomas Boyd sought an authentic evocation of 19th-century Transylvania by studying Balkan and Romanian architecture. He created separate sets for the crypt, the village and Dracula's bedroom.

Costume designer Judanna Lynn's explorations included 19th century German art, several movie versions of the story, and a visit to the Metropolitan Museum Costume Institute in New York City.

The production has 55 costumes, no two alike. Dracula's brides wear painted unitards and shoes that are "sheer and floaty so they look like they're barefoot," says ballet costumier Janet Campbell.

Dracula's cape weighs 15 pounds and is made from velvet and satin, deep magenta on the inside and black and green on the outside. It is covered with applique of bat images.

The cape has three fiberglass tent-rod spines. "When he moves the front, where his hands are, the cape goes up and down. It's quite an amazing costume," Campbell says.

Moore agrees the costume is great, but says "you have to deal with a very elaborate cape and have to be careful. It can distract from what you do and kind of takes over when you wear it. You also have to be careful when you move because people have fallen over it. But it is a great effect, very theatrical. When you see a silhouette shadow of Dracula it's larger than life."

Additional Information:

'Dracula'

Presented by: Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre

When: 8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday

Admission: $20.75 to $90.75

Where: Benedum Center, Downtown

Details: 412-456-6666 or www.pbt.org

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