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This article by Nicole Plett was prepared for the October 22, 2003
issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
The Roxey Ballet Cozies Up to the Undead
We may never know how or why fearsome fantasies such
as the blood-thirsty Count Dracula exert their irresistible attraction
on mere mortals. But America’s ballet companies don’t need to know.
Like a welcome infusion of warm, fresh blood, "Dracula" is
proving a sure cure for the anemic fortunes of regional companies
across the nation.
Roxey Ballet of Lambertville is the latest to weigh in with a vivid
new adaptation of Bram Stoker’s classic novel — a best-seller
since its publication in 1897. Just in time for the Halloween season,
the company will premiere Mark Roxey’s "Dracula" at the Villa
Victoria Theater in West Trenton on Friday and Saturday, October 24
and 25. The two-act ballet features the choreographer in the role
of the evil and charismatic Count Dracula, with Audra Johnson as the
beautiful Lucy and Sharon Rudda as the doomed Mina.
Also featured in the professional cast are Josie Johnson, Heather
Kelly-Searfoorce, and Alexandra Redelico as Dracula’s wives, with
Demetrius King as Renfield, Marcos Medina as Harker, Roger
as Dr. Seward, Leland Schwantes as the old Dr. Van Helsing. Christine
McDowell, Kevin Reynolds, and Annette Redelico complete the cast with
Karina Casey at the Lost Child.
"I don’t want to say that `Dracula’ is more than just a
ballet, because ballet is awesome," says Mark Roxey, in an
from his company’s Lambertville studios. "In this fast-paced world
we live in people overlook ballet in many arenas because ballet does
not deliver what people are interested in. Too many people think that
ballet is all just tutus. But the Dracula story has been around for
over 100 years and this is the type of story that offers people a
chance to come to the ballet and experience dramatic dance with a
story they can really bite into."
Roxey, who as a dancer is a veteran of several "Dracula"
says his goal for the evening is to offer an elegant, dark drama of
love, blood lust, loss, and redemption. "It’s a very sensual
love story about good conquering evil and the power of the cross —
that’s what draws people to it," he says. "It has such wide
appeal. After all, `Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ has become a cult
There is no record of the first sighting of the walking Undead —
or Nosferatu — but in the Balkans, during the 18th century, they
became epidemic. The panic attracted the curiosity of a German scholar
who wrote the first major vampire treatise, and the Romantic poets
soon lured the mythic bloodsucker into their literary realm. By the
close of the 19th century, the vampire had appeared in dozens of tales
and many disguises.
For over 100 years now, Count Dracula has cast his spell on readers
and audiences alike. The first staged reading took place during Bram
Stoker’s time at the Lyceum Theater in London, and was revived in
New York in 1927. The prolific author Anne Rice has had a lot to do
with the story’s popularity in the late 20th century. And by 1992
Francis Ford Coppola’s "Bram Stoker’s Dracula" was breaking
box office records.
Roxey’s dramatic ballet in two acts is performed by
a professional cast of 12. Sets are by Lisa McMillian, with sets and
lighting by Tom Rowe, video art and sound design by David Hanneman,
and costumes by Nilda Jones. Following the Friday night performance,
a costume party and reception will be held backstage at the theater
at 9 p.m. Attendees will have the opportunity to meet the cast of
Dracula as well as the Roxey Ballet Company’s board of directors.
Bloody Marys and hors d’oeuvres will be served with prizes for the
best costumes. The cost to attend is $30 per person.
Roxey says his ballet follows Bram Stoker’s story very closely, which
means it does have adult subject matter. Although it can be considered
something of a family show, no one under age five will be admitted.
One manifestation of how scarily effective Roxey has made his ballet
is the difficulty he experienced casting the role of the lost child
who is Lucy’s first victim. "Three children wanted to do it, but
halfway through it became too scary," he says. However, the young
Karina Casey overcame the jitters and will dance the role.
Mark and Melissa Roxey, professional dancers who have known each other
since they were teen-aged classmates at the Joffrey Ballet School,
co-founded the Roxey Ballet Company in 1995 and the Mill Ballet School
the following year. Mark is the company’s executive director and
is director of the school, and they are parents of a young son,
Both Roxeys left the stage in their prime years to create their own
school and company. Roxey Ballet currently has nine professional
contracted for 30 weeks. Since founding the company, Mark has
an astonishing number of works. Among the works now in repertory are
his full-length "Nutcracker," "Cinderella," and
Pied Piper of Hamlin."
Mark began his training at the Joffrey Ballet in New York and went
on to dance professionally with the Joffrey. He then joined the
Repertory Ballet and Dayton Ballet as a principal dancer, where he
danced in works choreographed by George Balanchine, Paul Taylor, Jose
Limon, Alvin Ailey, Maurice Petipa, and others. He has served on the
faculty of schools that include Princeton Ballet, Dayton Ballet, and
Wright State University.
Like companies across America, Roxey says his motivation for staging
the ballet is to draw more non-balletgoers to the art form. He knows
its popularity from first-hand experience.
Mark Roxey was featured as Count Dracula in Stuart Sebastian’s
with American Repertory Ballet for several seasons. He has also
Ben Stevenson’s version and one created by Michael Pick for the
Ben Stevenson created his "Dracula" ballet for the Houston
Ballet and Pittsburgh Ballet in 1997 where it has become a staple
October offering. The Pennsylvania Ballet, which first performed
"Dracula" in 2000, dances Stevenson’s version October 30 to
November 8 at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia.
Yet unlike codified, traditional ballets such as "The
today’s "Draculas" are as various and individual as their
choreographers. Like Roxey, most choreographers create their own
with scary sound effects and favorite fragments of evocative music.
Roxey found various kinds of music to match mood and action, from
Philip Glass to film scores, and also commissioned original music
that he like
Using the latest high-technology along with dance, the production
will feature an array of special effects, flying effects, sound
weather effects, video projection and animation. "The whole
is a very intense experience," he says. "It’s total theater
— definitely an unusual ballet experience."
— Nicole Plett
29, West Trenton, 609-397-7616. $26.50; $23.50 children, seniors,
and disabled. Friday and Saturday, October 24 and 25, 7 p.m.
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