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Bloodsucking Ballerinas

"Dracula" is a perfectly spooky, energetic ride for both those who are new to ballet and those who love to attend performances year after year.

Article
Michele Chiappetta
Photos
Courtesy
Posted
September 28, 2018

Picture a looming figure in a cape, his eyes dark with malevolence, his manner arrogant and dangerous. He draws closer and closer, determined to drink your blood to shake his unrelenting thirst, and there is nothing you can do to stop him. You must yield to his fierce hunger.

If you like your vampires dark, lurking and menacing, like the classic Bram Stoker character as portrayed by Bela Lugosi in 1931 or Gary Oldman in 1992, then you’ll want to see Tulsa Ballet’s performance of Dracula. It’s playing just in time for Halloween, and it’s a perfectly spooky, energetic ride for both those who are new to ballet and those who love to attend performances year after year.

The story that Dracula tells is ghoulish, emotional, and theatric. Count Dracula is always on the hunt for beautiful women to add to his bevy of brides. But when he sets his sights on the lovely young Svetlana (the village priest), Svetlana’s innkeeper father, and her fiancé Frederick arrive to attempt a rescue before it’s too late. It’s a race to find out who will win out — the evil, yet sympathetic Count, or the daring young Frederick and the brave, innocent Svetlana.

To get Dracula off the ground and soaring through the air, company members such as ballet master Alfonso Martin and principal dancer Arman Zazyan are among those who have been diligently planning, training and rehearsing to provide a breathless, exciting show for Green Country.

Martin joined the company in 1998 and danced principal roles in well-known pieces such as Giselle, Don Quixote, Cinderella, Romeo and Juliet, Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty and others before retiring from dancing in 2013 and taking on the role of ballet master. He has danced the lead as Dracula before for the Tulsa Ballet. These days, he’s behind the scenes, teaching choreography and preparing the dancers to deliver a great performance when the curtains rise.

“Dracula has to be very powerful from the beginning,” Martin says as he describes the role he once played and is now teaching. “As Dracula, you are the master. You are the guy that is telling everyone what to do. It is your ballet.” That sense of control and overarching manipulation requires a lot of dramatic energy. “It’s really intense,” he says. Audiences can expect an emotional, thrilling ride as a result.

To get Dracula off the ground and soaring through the air, company members such as ballet master Alfonso Martin and principal dancer Arman Zazyan are among those who have been diligently planning, training and rehearsing to provide a breathless, exciting show for Green Country.
To get Dracula off the ground and soaring through the air, company members such as ballet master Alfonso Martin and principal dancer Arman Zazyan are among those who have been diligently planning, training and rehearsing to provide a breathless, exciting show for Green Country.

The role of Count Dracula this year will be performed by Zazyan, who performed in Germany for several years before joining the Tulsa Ballet in 2015 as a senior soloist. He was promoted to principal the following year, which has opened up the opportunity for him to tackle Dracula. He’s looking forward to playing the role.

“Just the name Dracula is powerful,” says Zazyan. “And I like dancing story ballets, especially when they are dramatic and powerful, involving acting. I just have a good feeling about it. I like to keep onstage tight and intense.”

“It’s a good role to do for a male dancer,” adds Martin. “The ballet world has always been about the ballerina, the female dancers. And now, many choreographers are putting out ballets for males, what is the male figure, and Dracula is one of them.”

Dracula is a unique ballet in many ways. Originally choreographed and performed by the Houston Ballet in 1997, it features many roles for male dancers. In addition, it includes exciting aerial acrobatics, allowing the Count and his brides to fly through the air. There are special effects like an exploding chandelier, too. It all adds up to a dramatic, entertaining time for audiences.

Of course, the Tulsa Ballet is just as unique as the performances it gives. Originally formed in 1956, the Tulsa Ballet employs a roster of talented, international dancers representing 14 different countries. Martin and Zazyan both appreciate the mix of nationalities and variety of dancers.

“Everybody brings their own uniqueness to the field,” says Martin. “We learn from each other and our different cultures and different attitudes.”

“It is good to get to know other people, how they are,” adds Zazyan. “That can help you to educate yourself to say, ‘This is how they are.’ You get more open-minded instead of staying the same every day.”

In addition to bringing in international dancers, Tulsa Ballet’s goal is to share the finest works in classical and contemporary dance in the heartland of America. Their hard work over the years has earned them a stellar reputation in the ballet world.

“Tulsa Ballet is the place to be if you want to grow, if you want to challenge yourself,” says Zazyan. “Here, it’s all about growing up, reaching for more, to have better and the best. People are here to get further than what they were yesterday.”

“The company has been growing every single year,” says Martin. “I remember when I first came here, we had a following but it was a selected following. The company has changed gears to bring the art of ballet to everybody. Tulsa is growing, and we are growing with it.”

In terms of performances, the Tulsa Ballet performs in a broad range of styles and approaches that can appeal to many different groups. It also offers family-friendly ballet performances appropriate for children of all ages. The 2018–2019 season features Peter and the Wolf. Performances happen in October, November, January and March.  

LOCATOR
Tulsa Ballet’s Dracula
Tulsa Performing Arts Center | Tulsa
Oct. 25 (preview night): 7 p.m.
Oct. 26: 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 27: 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 28: 2:30 p.m.