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Van Dyke & Co., Mahoning Valley Ballet return to the Jackson for ‘Dracula’

November 2, 2011

Rowena (played by Marisa Stockdale, left) is about to become the prey of the Prince of Darkness (Morgan Chase) in this scene from Van Dyke & Company and the Mahoning Valley Ballet’s production of “Dracula,” which will be staged one time only Friday at the Jackson Theater. (Photo by Tom Chapin)

PUNXSUTAWNEY — Sure, Punxsy is mere days removed from Halloween, but the music and movement of Van Dyke & Company and the Mahoning Valley Ballet’s production of “Dracula” might make one feel otherwise.

Based on the original story by Ed Zatsick with original choreography by Joan E. Van Dyke and Denny Sovich, “Dracula” is scheduled for one performance Friday at the Punxsutawney Area Community Center’s Jackson Theater. See the accompanying box for details.

“The roles are appropriate for the cast that we have this year,” Van Dyke said about staging “Dracula” instead of the bi-annual “Nutcracker,” which was last performed in 2009 in the auditorium at Punxsutawney Area Middle School. “In the ballet, there are some good roles for students as far as level, challenge and technique. By combining the ballet with the modern dance, they have to be very versatile and flexible.”

“Dracula” has not been staged by Van Dyke & Company and the Mahoning Valley Ballet in Punxsy since 1996, when Sovich choreographed the modern dance.
It was last performed in 2006 at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, with modern dance choreography by Holly Boda Sutton.

For the 2011 production, April Astorino has choreographed the modern dance, while Van Dyke continues to choreograph the ballet.

In the beginning of the program, Dracula (played by IUP actor/dancer Morgan Chase) — the Prince of Darkness, cures to drink another’s blood in his quest to stay alive — finds his next victim, Rowena (played by the company’s senior dancer, Marisa Stockdale).

Twenty years later, the nocturnal duo comes upon their next victims, Ainsley (Erin Achille) and Neville (Trevor Runco) upon the celebration of their engagement.

As Dracula and his queen enter the engagement celebration, he casts a spell on everyone except Neville, who, while transfixed by Rowena, becomes her next victim, and Ainsley is led to believe that Dracula is her lover, Neville.

Fast-forward 100 years later, in Pittsburgh, when Neville, unhappy as a vampire, encounters Alyssa (also played by Achille), who looks exactly like Ainsley, whom he rescues from street thugs as they taunt her on her way home.

The rest of the ballet is for the audience to discover: Will Rowena ever be free from a life of a nighttime creature? Will Neville find his true love, Ainsley? And who will be Dracula’s next victim?

Despite having little space backstage and on the sidestages, Van Dyke — along with video artist/photographer Delbert Highlands, of Studio 131, and sound director Mike Momyer, of Dzine — is thrilled to showcase “Dracula” in the Jackson Theater, the home of many of Van Dyke’s early productions.

“I love the atmosphere here for ‘Dracula,’” she said, noting that the looming balcony and interior architecture of the theater lend themselves to the sound and ambiance of the intriguing performance.

Momyer also noted that this year, the sound — equipped with onstage and balcony-level monitors — should strike the audience in a moving way.

“We love this theater,” Van Dyke said. “This is a true theater.”

“This theater is awesome,” Highlands added.

There are about 30 dancers from Van Dyke & Company and the Mahoning Valley Ballet performing in “Dracula,” with rehearsals beginning in July.

The production is also assisted by stage manager/lighting director Nino Gennaro, of Erie, costume designer Lori Miller, and assistant director Nancy Jones.

ONE SHOW ONLY

The dancers and staff of Van Dyke & Company and the Mahoning Valley Ballet will present “Dracula,” based on the original story by Ed Zatsick with original choreography by Joan E. Van Dyke and Denny Sovich, for only one performance at 7 p.m. Friday at the Punxsutawney Area Community Center’s Jackson Theater, North Jefferson Street, Punxsutawney.

For tickets, call 938-8434.

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