Current BalletMet Columbus artistic director Edwaard Liang has high praise for one of his predecessors as the company prepares to present former artistic director David Nixon's "Dracula," which Nixon first set while he was with BalletMet in 1999.

Current BalletMet Columbus artistic director Edwaard Liang has high praise for one of his predecessors as the company prepares to present former artistic director David Nixon's "Dracula," which Nixon first set while he was with BalletMet in 1999.

"David Nixon is such a dramatic storyteller," Liang said. "'Dracula' is such an audience favorite. It's a sexy, captivating production with so many elements to it."

"Technique is always important, but the story is paramount," Olivia Clark, who will dance the role of Mina, said.

But some of the drama of this production will be Clark's real-life story. The dancer will retire following the close of "Dracula" after 18 years with BalletMet.

Adding to the story is that Mina was Clark's first principal role in a full-length ballet with the company.

"I was here when the ballet was created," Clark said. "And I stepped into the role early."

This year's production of "Dracula" will mark Clark's fifth in the role of Mina since first dancing the role in 2003. "I love this ballet so much. I'm so happy to be doing it one more time, coming full circle 12 years later."

The production is never the same twice, Clark said, despite Nixon's distinctive choreography.

"Each time I've started over by reading the book, looking for something new. What is it about [Mina] that allows [Dracula] to be a little human, to fall in love with her a little bit?"

Clark added that a changing cast brings fresh perspectives to the characters as well. This year's Draculas are David Ward, dancing the role for the second time, and Gabriel Gaffney Smith, in his debut in the role.

In the end, Clark said, it all comes back to the story.

"For this time of year, it's good to get into all that other-worldly stuff. But it's also about real human emotions. It comes down to love, hate, jealousy."