Tim Trumble

As a dancer, Emilio Minto just wants to bring a little light into a world that’s otherwise dark.

“My vision is to bring light to a very dark industry and what often seems like a negative world,” Minto said. “I want to bring joy and happiness. There needs to be a smile that we need to bring to this world.”

Minto is doing this via “The Return of Dracula.” Frances Smith Cohen’s piece has been called a haunting work. It features Minto as the vampire; Scott Bodily as his alternate persona, the count; and Amber Robins as the innocent maiden, Mina.

“I’m very excited,” he said about the show that begins Thursday at the Herberger Theater Center, Stage West.

“It’s a really neat role. We’re taking Dracula and splitting it into a dual character. Two dancers are playing the role of one character. The count, who’s a nobleman, renounces his faith because he loses the love of his life and becomes a monster.”

Late bloomer

Minto was born in Italy and moved with his family to Connecticut when he was 10. The family then relocated to Arizona.

“I think deep down my father always had this fantasy of living in the Old West,” he said. “By God, he did it and he took his whole family with him.”

Minto said his calling is dance, but he didn’t know it until he was a student at Greenway High School in Phoenix.

“I needed a PE credit to graduate and the only thing that was available was dance,” he said. “I thought what the heck. I’ll give it a shot. Lo and behold, I’ve made a career out of it.”

The first show he saw at Herberger was “The Snow Queen” 15 years ago. Not only does he feel fortunate to perform on a Herberger stage, but with Cohen.

“I think my blessing is working with someone like Fran, who has so much experience,” he said. “She’s started so many things that have to do with dance. She’s inspired me to do so much in this field.”

She has taught him to “truly be a professional” in his craft.

“She helped me to develop who I am as a professional dancer on the stage,” Minto explains.

Minto said he feels dance is his calling.

“I have to believe that the universe has made us to bring something to this world that no one else can,” he said. “When you truly listen to your heart and follow that calling, you’re preset to do what you’re supposed to do. If you truly follow your heart, you’ll have endless amounts of success.

“Everything I’ve created or done has been done with ease because I feel like I’m doing exactly what I was meant to do.”

Things weren’t always that easy for Minto, who moved to Northern Arizona to care for a family member and temporarily gave up dance.

“I put dance aside for a little bit,” he said. “I was getting depressed and not being myself anymore, so I found ways to dance. There was a studio 45 minutes from the town that I lived in. I went there to take classes and shortly afterward, I started teaching class. I then started my own company up there to bring more dance to the community.”

Challenging role

Portraying Dracula is told with modern dance by the Center Dance Ensemble’s corps dancers. “The Return of Dracula” is set in the count’s castle, and follows Dracula as he seduces all who cross his path.

He calls “The Return of Dracula” the perfect production for the fall.

“With the holiday season coming out, it’s nice to see something that’s truly brilliant and inspiring and moving,” Minto said. “Modern dance is so abstract that it’s hard to get current audiences to come to the theater. But this is something people can read a little better.

“Plus, who doesn’t like a good, scary story? It’s dance, so it’s elegant, I think.”

The elegance of dance is something that will always be with Minto.

“I just feel like the universe works through us,” Minto said “God works through us. You can bring love in all corners of the world.”

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