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Houston Ballet's 'Dracula' adds extra spookiness to Iowa Halloween Oct. 30-31 in Hancher

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The Houston Ballet will make Halloween a little spookier when it brings its full-length ballet version of "Dracula" to the University of Iowa Hancher Auditorium for performances at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Oct. 30 and 31.

Audience members are invited to wear apparel appropriate for an "undead" performance, if they so desire. The Hancher ushers and cafe staff will also be in Halloween costumes, including day-glo vampire fangs.

Ben Stevenson, artistic director of the Houston Ballet, created "Dracula" in 1997 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Bram Stoker's classic thriller. "'Dracula is an amazing story," he says. "It's very gruesome, but it continues to fascinate people 100 years later."

The critics have certainly been fascinated by the Houston Ballet production. Jennifer Dunning of the New York Times described it as "a spectacle on an order ballet audiences seldom see today. The sets are not just lavish, but exquisitely beautiful and atmospheric. The ballet . . . is crammed with ingenious stage magic. Count Dracula and his ghostly undead brides fly. The Count dies in a flash of light atop a candlelighted chandelier. For once, $1 million, the cost of 'Dracula,' looks like a million."

Calling "Dracula" "a ballet with teeth," the Chicago Tribune's Sid Smith wrote that Stevenson has created "a balanced, tasteful, lavishly produced and supremely classical work." And Clive Barnes of the New York Post called the production "magnificently and spookily spectacular."

For his "Dracula" score, Stevenson chose music by Hungarian composer Franz Liszt, in an arrangement created especially for the Houston Ballet by the celebrated British ballet composer John Lanchbery.

The production's scenic design by Thomas Boyd evokes the haunted, creepy, nocturnal world in which vampires thrive. Designer Judanna Lynn created more than 60 richly detailed, late-19th-century costumes, including a spectacular bat-like cape with which the Count envelopes his victims.

The "Dracula" story has been retold in many ways, from horror story to psychological thriller to outlandish farce, but Stevenson chose to take the story very seriously, with all its raw terror and twisted eroticism. "Dracula is evil," he observes. "I've tried to keep the chilling side of the story in my treatment for the ballet."

The company stresses that this version of "Dracula" is not appropriate for very young children. Stevenson says, "I look upon Dracula as being a very sensuous man, with a definite sexual attraction to his victims. He is turned on by certain women -- the most beautiful women he can find." As Sam Howe Verhovek of the New York Times put it, "'Swan Lake' it is not."

Country Bancorporation and Kay J.A. Bernau are the sponsors of the Houston Ballet performances, through the University of Iowa Foundation.

Tickets for "Dracula" are $40, $37 and $34. UI students and senior citizens qualify for a 20-percent discount, and Zone 3 tickets are available to UI students for $10. Tickets for audience members 17 and younger are half price.

Hancher box office hours are 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. weekdays, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday and 1-3 p.m. Sunday. From the local calling area or outside Iowa, dial (319) 335-1160. Long distance within Iowa and western Illinois is toll-free, 1-800-HANCHER. Fax to (319) 353-2284. Orders may be charged to VISA, MasterCard or American Express. UI students may charge their purchases to their university bills, and UI faculty and staff may select the option of payroll deduction.

People with special needs for access, seating and auxiliary services should dial (319) 335-1158. This number will be answered by box office personnel prepared to offer assistance with handicapped parking, wheelchair access and seating, hearing augmentation and other services. The line is equipped with TDD for people with hearing impairment who use that technology.

For information on UI arts events, visit on the World Wide Web.

Navigate to on the World Wide Web to learn more about the Houston Ballet and it's original production of "Dracula."