The Orlando Ballet is back to kick off the 2019-20 season with its undead-inspired original show, “Vampire’s Ball,” at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts — just in time to celebrate Halloween.
“This is the fourth time we’ve been doing it and I’m going into my eleventh season,” says Robert Hill, Orlando Ballet’s artistic director.
The ballet came about as a reflection of the city’s love for the scare-filled holiday and quickly evolved into an Orlando favorite.
“I found out soon after being here how big Halloween is in Orlando. I mean it’s huge and many people, sort of, encouraged me. ‘Why don’t you do something that is Halloween time of year friendly?’,” says Hill. “It’s so funny because originally there was not going to be a story,” he continued. “I wanted to create some kind of sweet advances that would work for the Halloween time of year and as I started creating some of the little dances it became apparent that if I wanted to I could weave it together by creating a very sort of silly, campy story and that’s kind of what happened.”
While this is the fourth time the Orlando Ballet has performed the show, Hill says that this version of “Vampire’s Ball” will be different as it has been updated with new types of technology and new productions.
“We’re going to be using projection for some of the backdrop, that’ll be a new thing. There are some new dances in the second act,” says Hill. “It’s going to feel quite fresh.”
“Vampire’s Ball’s” use of classical technique and humor makes this ballet a perfect introduction to the art form as well.
“The play on vampires, zombies and all of that is just pure fun. It does not take itself seriously, we make fun of the ballet tradition,” says Hill. “‘Vampire’s Ball’ is rich in thrills and campiness, with an approachable blend of strong classical dancing alongside edgy, contemporary movement. It’s a fan favorite, but it’s also a fun first ballet for newcomers.”
The ballet will also provide the audience the chance to see some new faces on the stage.
“In the original production, I created a dance for a trio of young, talented dancers and they turned out to be the sort of children of vampires and they do this really hard dance and bring down the house,” says Hill.
Although the casting has not been announced, “Vampire’s Ball” will include dancers from Orlando Ballet’s second company, upper level trainees and children from the Orlando Ballet school.
“I created these roles because our students are performing at such an exceptional level, they deserve the opportunity to gain valuable performance experience alongside our professional company,” says Hill.
With a cast of 40 dancers, “Vampire’s Ball” will include most of the company. The principal casting will be announced closer to opening night.
“We’re not ready to officially announce the principal cast but just know that the cast is 40. Everybody in the company will be on the stage at one point in each of the four performances,” says Hill.
“There’s no mystery, we don’t try to be anything like that. It just makes sense for all concerned that we really wait until just before and, you know, hopefully the casting will be what I have in my mind right now but we’re still teaching the ballet and we’re still trying different people out in different roles.”
Hill is excited to bring back “Vampire’s Ball” and understands the love Orlando dance lovers have for the program.
“I just got into the studio, started making these little dances that used either Halloween kind of music or that kind of thing and then eventually I just felt like wow this could be linked to this way and that could be linked that way and we use a little bit of voice over to tell the story,” he says. “It’s a very silly, funny and campy story and people absolutely love it. I get people who stop me in the grocery store, in different places around town, thanking me for bringing ‘Vampire’s Ball’ back again. It really does have great dancing in it and so people love that.”
Hill has been the artistic director at Orlando Ballet for over a decade. He has been a principal dancer with the American Ballet Theatre, the New York City Ballet and the Royal Ballet. His performance in “Onegin” at the Metropolitan Opera House was selected as one of the “Ten Best Moments in Dance” by the New York Times in 2002.
After “Vampire’s Ball,” the season will continue with the return of holiday favorite “The Nutcracker.” The performance starts Dec. 13 and runs through Dec. 23. “The Nutcracker” will include the entire Orlando Ballet company and 150 Orlando Ballet school students.
“After that we’ll be doing very nice production of ‘Cinderella,’” says Hill. “Then, we are going to be doing a triple bill program in March which I think is going to be my favorite.”
“Made in the USA: A Collection of American Works” will feature guest choreographers and an original piece by Hill.
“The triple bill program is called ‘Made in the USA,’ so I’ve invited two of my friends who are American choreographers to come back,” says Hill. “Jessica Lang, this is her third time with us, and Val Caniparoli, this is our second time having his stage work, and I’m going to be creating the third ballet on that program.”
Lang graduated from the Juilliard School where she studies under the direction of Benjamin Harkarvy. She has choreographed for companies worldwide, including American Ballet Theatre, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and Joffrey Ballet.
Caniparoli has choreographed for over 50 companies and spent 43 years at San Francisco Ballet. Caniparoli attended Washington State University and received a scholarship to study at San Francisco Ballet School.
“I’m also going to be making my return to the stage after 17 years in a solo called ‘The Calling.’ The choreographer is Lang so we will be having her company piece and also the solo,” says Hill. “I’m very excited about returning to the stage.”
The Orlando Ballet closes out the season with “Mowgli – The Jungle Book.” The show is a one-hour version of the production designed for kids of all ages.
Orlando Ballet’s “Vampire’s Ball” plays Oct. 31-Nov. 3 at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets start at $24 and are available to purchase at OrlandoBallet.org/Event/Vampires-Ball-2019. For more information on all the shows coming to the 2019-20 season, visit OrlandoBallet.org.