Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Dracula! (the ballet)

This past weekend, I and my younger sister went to see the Tulsa Ballet's performance of Dracula, choreographed by Ben Stevenson. It drew simultaneously from classic ballets such as Giselle, and from silent horror movies such as Nosferatu, which was an entrancing combination. Here is a description of the ballet and a short review. Be forwarned- this review contains many, many spoilers!

Note: I claim no rights to any of the following pictures from the ballet; they belong to their respective owners.

The curtain opened as a flight of steps moved backwards to the door of a crypt, which slowly became lit from behind to show the silhouette of the Vampire King himself, a sight similar to that of the entrance of Nosferatu in the 1922 movie.  He came out, alone on the stage, with his cape wrapped around him, and suddenly wafted it open to reveal its rosy satin lining.

 Then he ascended a flight of steps, watching dourly as his eighteen young, undead brides began to drift about the stage, forming complex configurations.

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Their dresses were like wedding gowns, but torn and draggled. Their half-life was obvious as they danced with Dracula, wilting at his command.

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Even when he danced with only one or two of them, they were like puppets, which had to be supported. The effect was such that it appeared that Dracula was the only truly living one in the crypt. Then, a carriage rolled in, with Renfield at the reins. A village girl, Flora, stepped out. She attempted to fight Dracula, but in the end, she became a food source for both him and his undead consorts.

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The curtain closed on this macabre scene, for the first intermission.

The second act was much less undead, as it took place in the nearby village square. Svetlana, a young girl, is in love with Fredrick, a young man about her age, and insists that he ask her father, a baker, for permission to wed her. This scene began comically enough- Fredrick is shy of asking her father, so Svetlana pushes him, literally, into asking her father, then kicks his leg out from under him so that he'll go down on one knee to ask for her hand. Though this scene, complete with separate village dances by first the women, with ribbons, then the men (with long sticks which they hold up to form crosses), is obviously influenced by Giselle, Svetlana's approach toward Fredrick is very different than Giselle's, for Giselle runs away from Albrecht's advances toward romance, while Svetlana is eager to be wedded to Fredrick.

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One part of this scene which I particularly liked was the part after Svetlana and Fredrick have become engaged, in which Svetlana's father and mother dance a pas de deux to celebrate the engagment. It's not often in ballets that the parents get their own dance. The contrast in the style of dance was also striking: where the female vampires were limp and weak in their style of dancing, Svetlana and the other village girls displayed great vigor, thus setting the living apart from the undead.

 Since the ballet is called, after all, Dracula and not Svetlana, it doesn't take long for the happy scene to go wrong. Flora returns, clawing at the young men who try to help her to her feet. Svetlana tries to comfort her, but Flora claws away Svetlana's rope of garlic, which has been ffastened around her neck to protect her until her wedding day. She rips off her gown and reveals the tattered dress beneath: she has become a vampire. The vicar menaces her with his cross, and she cowers. A bolt of lightning- Dracula appears in the midst of the frightened villagers, and claims Flora.

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 His eye falls upon Svetlana, and Renfield's carriage emerges in a cloud of mist. He pulls the bride-to-be into the coach, and the vampires ride off, while the curtain falls.
The third and final scene takes place in Dracula's bedroom, where he hypnotises and attempts to bite Svetlana.

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However, just as he is about to sink his teeth into her neck, Fredrick, the vicar, and the baker, along with several villagers, show up. They fight against both Dracula and his brides, who all overpower them, throwing the cross into the wings of the stage, and injuring the vicar. Again, Dracula circles Svetlana, preparing to bite her. Then Fredrick rips at the draperies- the dawn has come, and the vampires flee. Dracula is trapped in the light, and flies straight upwards, then lands on the chandelier, where he shakes and burns, leaving only ashes sifting down.
Fredrick and Svetlana go out onto the balcony, and embrace in the light of the morning, and the curtain falls.
Then, the curtain rises again- Renfield emerges from the high draperies of Dracula's four-poster and clambers down, staring at the chandelier. A bat-like silhouette swings downward from the chandelier and the curtain falls for the last time.

The use of ballet to tell the Dracula story was an interesting medium, but it told the story well. The use of special effects such as flight was not overdone, but made the vampires seem even more invincible. Dracula himself was both dangerous and magnetic, and really (I'm afraid I must pun now) sucked me in. All in all, it was a performance worth watching.

1 comment:

  1. This sounds beautiful! I love the costumes! I want a tattered wedding dress, I can be a bride of Dracula and Miss Havisham! I love the crazy horsehead masks! I like that he sets on fire, I wonder how they did that? I wish I could see this!