This Halloween season, Carolina Ballet presented the world premier of ‘Frankenstein’, an all new ballet created by the company’s Artistic Director, Zalman Raffael. Debuting brand new choreography, costumes and set design, as well as new music from J. Mark Scearce, Frankenstein certainly stands up to the company’s sensational Halloween predecessors- ‘Sleepy Hollow’ and ‘Dracula’.
Complete madness meets impeccable classicality as Frankenstein’s monster is phenomenally brought to life by company principal, Marcello Martinez. The grotesquely becomes a perfectly twisted combination of raw animosity and primal humanity. The monster was so elegant in his evil, so poised in his barbairity, that the audience couldn’t quite distinguish their disdain for the character from their appreciation for his technical ability. Martinez embodies the character so completely that you forget that you are watching a highly trained dancer- that is, until you notice that his lines are so straight that they would put an arrow to shame.
Frankenstein’s monster was clearly the main element of the production drawing audience members into the theatre, and the progression of the performance was pain-stakingly developed to keep the audience in suspense as they awaited his creation. It was a bold move on Carolina Ballet’s part to make the audience wait for it, but viewers were certainly not left wanting once he exploded (quite literally- sparks erupted from the depths of Frankenstein’s lab) onto the stage. The company set the stage for shock and tragedy perfectly- everything was so merry until it suddenly wasn’t, and you could just feel the inaudible “FINALLY” in the crowd’s maniacal energy.
The audience is guided through Victor Frankenstein’s troubled past and ushered into his increasingly more complicated present as the set is transformed from a wedding ceremony to the depths of the sea, then into his college days and through his introduction to the sciences that led him to create life. Through each stage of the story, narration and video projected into hanging windows overhead drew the audience into cornerstones of the plot that they could not even see. In a typical proscenium production, the majority of the action tends to be Earth-bound, but there was hardly an inch of the cavernous space that was not actively engaging the audience. Particularly with the monster’s murders, the biggest shocks came from unseen allusions in narration- it takes a particular skill to make the audience mourn a death that they never even witnessed.
The most impressive choreographic element of the ballet was the duality of the monster’s personified conscience. Life and death- the two conflicting halves of his being- were portrayed by two dancers who acted as the devil and angel on his shoulder. The pair performed the same movement, but tailored the intentionality of their own performance to reflect their extrinsic motives. Life danced with hope and light, calling on his humanity, while death was sharp and demanding, calling to the creature in him. Both were unfailingly persuasive, and each had their respective triumphs over his life.
Carolina Ballet rarely disappoints, and ‘Frankenstein’ was no exception. Though the most thrilling part of the show was undeniably the final half hour when the monster was made and permitted to wreak havoc on the people of his town, there was an equally undeniable artfulness to the stalling that went into taking the audience there. In summation, go for the monster but stay for the buildup. Perhaps the spookiest part of the experience will be the wait.
Categories: Arts & Entertainment