The Nevada Ballet Theater celebrates its 50th anniversary and has commenced their 2022-23 season with the production of Dracula, choreographed by Ben Stevenson.
Opening night at Reynolds Hall, located in the Smith Center, welcomed attendees wearing fangs, ruffs and bloody pearl necklaces resembling the wounds of vampire bites.
Jasmine Artega, 27, twirled her dress resembling a black cape and flicked her silver dagger earrings. “Part of the fun is dressing according to theme,” Artega said. “My friends and I decided to each resemble one character of the ballet. I chose to recreate Dracula.”
Upon entering the venue, a white backdrop with the initials NBT50 stamped over it has a line of guests waiting to take a photo. The bar is stocked with a variety of snacks, beverages and wines for attendees to enjoy during the performance.
Roy Kaiser, Artistic Director for the Nevada Ballet Theater, began his extensive career in the ballet world as a dancer at the age of seventeen and has since taken on various roles. He came into his current position in 2017.
When asked about how Dracula came to be in terms of planning and theme Kaiser said, “This production is not new, although people that are seeing it for the first time don’t believe me when I tell them it was [in] 1997 [that] this particular production premiered.”
“I learned quickly how big Halloween is here in Las Vegas. It totally blew me away. It was a natural decision to present this ballet here and we did, and it was hugely successful.” Kaiser said.
“Coming out of the pandemic this is our first full season that we’re putting back on, and I thought, let’s start with something big and here you have it.”
With over 2,000 seats available and resembling the shape of a horse shoe, attendees are able to see the stage clearly from any seat in the hall.
“This is my first time seeing a ballet in person and the venue is gorgeous and atmospheric, it feels like I am transported back to the old days when plays and ballets were the main source of entertainment” said Leo Dayeon, 19, who traveled from Arizona to attend this performance.
The vision Kaiser has for NBT aims to reach people who do not believe ballet is for them and showcasing a mix of classical and contemporary works.
“There is a statement around the artform, a lot of people think they don’t know enough about ballet to come and enjoy it. It is not true,” said Kaiser. “You don’t need to know a lot. You just need to come and sit down and listen and open your eyes.”
“Part of my mission is to expose as many people as possible to what the art form really is, it’s not what people think it is. It’s not an exclusive art form.”
The production is split into three acts, each separated by a brief intermission. Lights dim, music by Franz Liszt plays, and Act One begins.
Audience members lean in and with an attentive eye take in the ghostly scenery of Dracula’s castle. Dancers move with ethereal delicacy in stark contrast to the lurid plotline. Blood thirsty Dracula has converted Flora into a devoted follower and bride against her own wishes.
Act Two is set in the village celebrating Svetlana’s birthday and the fact that she is newly engaged to Frederick. The tone of the villagers quickly changes when Dracula arrives, and with the help of Renfield, kidnaps Svetlana to make her his bride.
The final act includes carriage rides, vampires flying high above the stage, dancers evaporating and a dramatic finale that made viewers jump in their seats.
Seamless transitions and special effects are pivotal components in the show that allowed performers to seemingly cast a spell on the audience and a willing viewer to allow for the magic to happen.
When asked about what happens behind the scenes Kaiser said, “we have over 20 stagehands that are on the deck backstage making everything move smoothly.”
“From the stage manager, to the men and women that make all of the flying happen, to moving scenery around. It’s a whole mini city backstage that’s making it work..”
“There’s a whole world backstage that, without one or two of those people, something would go wrong. Fortunately for us, they’re all professionals. We have a really great crew here at the Smith Center and it’s as choreographed backstage as it is on stage.”
From soaring vampires and chilling music, to haunting dances and design, the spectacle of the production resulted in a standing ovation.
Lewie Silva, 24, said “I loved it. I was a fan of the movie. I love ballets because it feels like silent films…Ballet, the art, is just so beautiful. The production was absolutely amazing.”
The red and gold floor to ceiling curtains came down and the crowd dispersed into the lobby.
Glenda Carhart, current owner and artistic director of Riverside Ballet Arts said, “Ben Stevenson is a great choreographer, and the whole setting, the costumes, everything. The scenery and how he puts it all together is perfect.”
With a successful conclusion to Dracula’s opening night and three more performances to go, attendees were asked if they would return to another production of Dracula, Silva said “one hundred percent.”
The NBT season continues up until May 2023 with works choreographed by James Canfield, Trey McIntyre, and Septime Webre’s premier of Wizard of Oz.