Friday, June 05, 2020

Honourable Mention: Northern Ballet Presents Dracula

Over two decades ago I went to the ballet. It was the first time I had ever been to the ballet and I watched the Northern Ballet Theatre present Dracula. For a ballet-philistine, such as myself, it was actually enthralling with a marvellous score by Feeney. It never toured to my home town again (though it was sold out for that production). Now, in the midst of the covid lockdown Northern Ballet’s production of Dracula was shown on the BBC. It had a different score, different choreography and a different story variation but it had to be watched.

Riko Itu as older Dracula
If you are wondering why it is listed as an honourable mention – well I don’t really know how else to approach an art form I know so little about. This will make the fifth ballet I have watched in 5 decades. The aforementioned Dracula, of course, was the first. Then the was Dracula: Pages from a Virgin’s Diary, which is much less ballet (though it is one, of course) and more a Guy Maddin film. I’ve also watched Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty, which was not a Dracula related piece but still had a vampire element. Indeed the only none vampire ballet I have ever watched was a broadcast of the Nutcracker.

biting Harker
Now, as mentioned, this was different to the first performance of Dracula I had watched, but of course held true to many of the story aspects from the novel beginning with Harker (Lorenzon Trossello) at the Count’s castle – where the Count begins older, and stylised, played by Riko Itu – it was a striking look and the dancer imbued his performance with alien movements. There are still the brides (Rachael Gillespie, Sarah Chun and Minju Kang). What is interesting is not the fact that he becomes younger (Javier Torres) – though the stagecraft was impressive – but that it is after repelling the brides and explicitly feeding on Harker.

As for the England section we do have Mina (Abigail Prudameds) and Lucy (Antoinette Brooks-Daw) and the suitors are reduced to Seward (Joseph Taylor) and Holmwood (Matthew Koon) only. It was interesting that they have a transfusion for Lucy that fails, and is drawn from the two suitors at once. Dracula meets Mina at the Holmwood/Westenra engagement, and in this production they have the pair actually fall in love – with Dracula becoming reluctant to feed upon her – though we do get that eventually.

Mina and Dracula
What I will mention is that the very ending, the last moment of the ballet, was a new addition to the story and was shocking... When I previously saw Dracula live it was in three Acts (this was two) and it was fairly bloodless bar the last act where there was plenty of stage blood – I think avoided earlier as it would be a slip hazard. This is bloodless throughout, pretty much – though we do see the transfusion and the decapitated head of Lucy lifted briefly. It is, nonetheless, chock-a-block with atmosphere and is certainly inventive. Worth watching, even for a ballet-philistine.

At the time of writing there is no IMDb page.

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