Dance companies sink teeth into “Dracula”

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Special to Florida Weekly

O DANCE and REACH will perform an interpretation of “Dracula” that’s set in the Jazz Age. 
COURTESY PHOTO O DANCE and REACH will perform an interpretation of “Dracula” that’s set in the Jazz Age. COURTESY PHOTO Palm Beach Gardens-based professional dance companies REACH and O DANCE are collaborating to perform “Dracula,” a jazz and modern show scheduled Halloween weekend.

Danced Oct. 31-Nov. 2, the performance integrates the professional dance ability of 26 company members, along with the vocal talent of Voices of Pride, the Gay Men’s Chorus of the Palm Beaches, and the cinematic work of students at G-Star School of the Arts in West Palm Beach.

Besides featuring a vampire as its main character, this “Dracula” is unlike the literary classic by Bram Stoker. Male lead Shannon Smith, cast as “Vladimir Tepes,” dances a plot in which a 1920’sera grand hotel hosts the premiere of a new silent film about vampires, with a real vampire — Vladimir Tepes — cast as the film’s star. The unsuspecting audience dances as they come upon the chilling revelation.

In it, there are scenes set in the Grand Hotel’s hallway, boiler room, rooftop, and a hotel room, making for a fulllength, 90-minute show.

A love story is danced by Smith, along with Susan Fulks, Dani Giustino, and Ryan Redmond, a finalist on last season’s “So You Think You Can Dance.” And, while a name like “Dracula” elicits haunting visions of terror and gore, the show is appropriate for all ages — it will be danced to a sold-out crowd of 750 Palm Beach County students on Oct. 30.

The show’s plot was thought up and choreographed by O DANCE and REACH founders Jerry Opdenaker and Maria Konrad, both of whom are graduates of The University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

“I think what makes this ballet unique is the use of traditional jazz music with jazz dance of the 1920s, contemporary ballet and modern dance vocabulary,” Ms. Konrad said.

Mr. Opdenaker currently serves as Ballet Master for the Dance Theater of Florida and is a principal teacher at the Florida School for Dance Education and Alexander W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts. Ms. Konrad, herself a Dreyfoos graduate, serves as Assistant Director of Florida School for Dance Education.

Together, they’ve been rehearsing “Dracula” with the company for hours each Saturday and Sunday since August.

“I think this cast is really diverse,” said Ms. Konrad. “They’re really good at what they do, but they also come from all types of dance — from ballet, to commercial, to Broadway—and they all bring that quirky flare into the show. That gives it an energy that makes it unique,” she said. “It’s not just a dance show, it’s not just a theater piece, and it’s not just a music piece. It’s truly a theatric collaboration that puts dance into a theatrical realm.”

Mr. Opdenaker and Ms. Konrad’s choreography to a jazzy score ranges from dark and daring — with a sultry number danced by Mr. Smith, Ms. Fulks, Ms. Giustino and Mr. Redmond — to upbeat clap-along routines danced by the entire company, showcasing the collective talent of the group as well as its fun side.

“You can’t help but watch the show and be filled with joy,” Ms. Konrad said. “This show has choreography and music from the 1920s era, and it incorporates that same freedom and movement.” ¦

2014-10-23 / Arts & Entertainment News

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