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‘Dracula’ dances into Staller Center for one transfixing night

The Royal Winnipeg Ballet performs the full-length

The Royal Winnipeg Ballet performs the full-length "Dracula" at Staller Center. Photo Credit: Rejean Brandt

WHAT The Royal Winnipeg Ballet performs “Dracula”

WHEN | WHERE 8 p.m. Saturday, Staller Center, Stony Brook University

TICKETS $48; 631-632-2787, stallercenter.com

With daylight saving time gone, these shorter days may present the best opportunity for vampire sightings. However, Alan Inkles once hoped “Dracula” would show up a couple of weeks earlier — the Saturday night before Halloween.

“I saw the Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s ‘Dracula’ a few years back,” Inkles, director of Staller Center, recalls. The vampire ballet had a hugely successful tour after its premiere in Canada in 1998. “I got in touch with them about bringing it here for Halloween,” he says. “They thought it was such a great idea, they opened it instead back home in Winnipeg.”

Despair not. “Dracula,” the ballet, comes to Staller Center for one performance Saturday night.

“That’s pretty much how it happened,” Royal Winnipeg’s artistic director Andrew Lewis confirms, although the company opened its “Dracula” revival out of town, in Minneapolis, before performing it five times at Winnipeg’s Centennial Concert Hall leading up to Oct. 31.

CONTEMPORARY CLASSICAL

Although it’s a contemporary ballet — Mark Godden, a Texas native who studied at Royal Winnipeg’s ballet school, was commissioned to choreograph “Dracula” just after Lewis became artistic director in 1996 — “this is very much a classical ballet, ladies en pointe and the rest,” Lewis says.

It’s also “quite theatrical,” he adds, “and very close to the Bram Stoker novel — not at all like the old movies, which are ludicrous, almost comic.”

All the main characters from Stoker’s novel are here: Lucy, who falls prey to Count Dracula; Dr. Van Helsing, who becomes suspicious when Lucy begins wasting away; Jonathan, the solicitor who barely escapes the Transylvania castle alive, and his fiancee, Mina.

The ballet is performed to recorded tracks of various movements from symphonies 1, 2 and 9 by Mahler, a contemporary of Stoker. “The ballet has a distinct Gothic atmosphere,” Lewis says, “so we wanted music from that period.”

While the story is told largely in ballet pantomime by a troupe of 28 dancers, there is a recorded narrative at the start of Act II, with touches of humor in both the accompanying dance and the plot summary. As in Stoker’s novel, the dance Dracula is seen as a wolflike figure.

A FULL-LENGTH VISION

Full-length ballets have become the signature of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, one of North America’s oldest such companies. “I see it as my vision,” says Lewis. Royal Winnipeg has since commissioned ballets based on “The Magic Flute” opera in 2004, also by Godden, “Peter Pan” in 2006 and “Moulin Rouge” in 2011, both by another Royal Winnipeg alum, Jorden Morris. Next up for the company is “Vespers,” a ballet inspired by the music of Renaissance composer Monteverdi.

“I felt a need to do new full-length ballets when I started here,” Lewis recalls. “Now even small companies are doing this. It’s very difficult to tour anymore with a mixed repertory [of ballet standards]. Ballet needs new full-length pieces to engage a wider audience. We think we’re fulfilling that need.”

WHAT The first American Latina to win a Kennedy Center Honors award and a Presidential Medal of Freedom, Chita Rivera revisits some of the signature moments of her song-and-dance Broadway career in Tilles Center’s Cabaret at Club “T” series Friday night. She’ll perform numbers from “The Rink,” for which she won her first Tony Award; “Kiss of the Spider Woman,” her second Tony; “West Side Story,” “Chicago,” “Sweet Charity,” “Bye Bye Birdie” and “The Visit.”

WHEN | WHERE 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. Friday, Hillwood Recital Hall at Tilles Center, LIU Post campus, Brookville

TICKETS $53 (7:30 show), $43 (9:30); 516-299-3100, tillescenter.org

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