It's almost Valentine's Day, the time of year for crimson roses, heart-shaped candies, candlelit dinners -- and Count Dracula?
Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre thinks the blood-thirsty Casanova isn't just for Halloween.
"Dracula was before Edward," artistic director Terrence Orr said, referring to vampire heartthrob Edward Cullen from Stephenie Meyer's "Twilight" book and film series. "When you think about the [Dracula] story, in actuality, it is a love story."
PBT will stage for the first time since 2004 Ben Stevenson's balletic adaptation of Dracula and his bitten brides Friday through next Sunday at the Benedum Center, Downtown. It is a three-act production with two intermissions.
Mr. Orr feels performing in February the dark romance inspired by the Bram Stoker gothic novel will bring a fresh perspective to it, but even he had his doubts at first.
"Can I really do this?" he wondered.
PBT performed the ballet in October three times in the past, including as the opener for Mr. Orr's first season as artistic director in 1997.
Pyrotechnics, coffins, elaborate costumes, fog and high-flying dancers will help PBT's full roster of artists, including some from the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School graduate program, bring 19th-century Transylvania to life.
"The whole theatricality of the ballet ... is all ... very eerie and really different from a typical ballet," said production manager Courtney Adler. "It's very dramatic."
The makeup isn't the norm for ballet, either.
"A lot of makeup for typical ballet is to heighten your features, and this is kind of to [make dancers] look distressed and just morbid," Ms. Adler said.
Franz Liszt's score heightens the fear factor. "It just resounds Dracula to me," Mr. Orr said. It's exciting and staccato at times, and more innocent or dark at others, he said.
"Dracula" is one of PBT's larger productions, Ms. Adler said, but the company doesn't get any extra time at the theater to prepare for it. The show loads into the Benedum Center on Monday, with rehearsals getting into full swing later in the week. This means dancers will have only a couple of days to learn how to mesh the mechanics of soaring through the air with the choreography they practiced at the company's Liberty Avenue studio in the Strip District.
"It's not extremely complicated," Ms. Adler said of flying, "but it's definitely fun to see."
"It should be interesting," said soloist Eva Trapp, who will dance the role of one of the flying characters. "It's supposed to [create] a sense that anyone can take off and fly at any point."
The magic will continue through the end of the show as fireworks come into play, Ms. Adler said. PBT artists feel this combination of special effects and spooky seduction gives the ballet a wide appeal.
"I think the story is a pretty classic story, but I do feel nowadays, with vampires being so [much a part of] pop culture, I think it appeals to a little bit of a younger audience. It's kind of this weird phenomenon where everyone likes vampires right now," Ms. Trapp said. "I can see people of all ages enjoying the show."
Sara Bauknecht: firstname.lastname@example.org . First Published February 6, 2011 5:00 AM