So I wasn't sure if I was going to like it or not before I saw the actual show. I learned about it back in February when I went to see Sleeping Beauty. I nearly peed my pants, because a) Dracula is one of my favorite novels ever ever ever, and b) after doing ballet for like 20 years myself, I really love ballet. Put those two together and it was one of the best things that ever happened to my life.
Then I read this synopsis on the Ballet West website:
Act I: The Crypt of Dracula’s Castle
In the evening, Count Dracula and his wives awaken in their coffins in the crypt of his castle. In order to satisfy the lust of the Count, his most trusted henchman, Renfield, arrives in a coach with Flora, a lovely young girl from the village.
Act II: The Village
The innkeeper and his wife are celebrating with the villagers the eighteenth birthday of their daughter Svetlana. Frederick, a young man from the village, is in love with her and asks the innkeeper for her hand in marriage. At the height of the festivities, Count Dracula, who has been informed of Svetlana’s beauty, arrives to abduct her.
Act III: The Bedroom of Count Dracula
Flora and the other brides await the return of Count Dracula. He enters with Svetlana, who is to become his next bride. At the climax of her initiation, Frederick, accompanied by the priest and the innkeeper, storm into the Count’s bedroom in an attempt to save her.
Uh, wait, what? Pretty much the only resemblance this synopsis has to the actual Dracula story is that there is a dude named Dracula who is a vampire. At that point, I really considered if I wanted to see one of my favorite stories torn apart. But I bought tickets anyway, and it turns out that I didn't really care if it followed the story or not, because it ended up being absolutely brilliant.
To avoid talking about it for the next 18 hours, I will focus on the best points and present them here in no particular order (bc I'm indecisive like that):
-So the score is Liszt, and this is the opening piece. Yes, this is the music. Amazing. (Also, "Totentanz" means "Dance of the Dead" in German. Very appropriate indeed!)
The music starts, the stage is all foggy (with the creep-along-the-floor kind of dry ice fog (the superior fog, in my opinion)) and red and purple lights with a spotlight on some spooky looking stone stairs, which suddenly move quite swiftly to the back of the stage and Dracula is there! He had some seriously shocking appearances throughout. How on earth he got there half the time, I have no idea.
-Flying vampires? Yes please!
-Okay, Dracula's brides are by far the best part of the ballet (followed closely by Dracula himself). Their choreography was super eerie, and they did this zombie-arm thing that I am OBSESSED with. Also, they were frequently laying face-down with their arms splayed out. Seriously, one of my favorite moments was the opening of Act III when the curtain opened up to a handful of vampire brides posed on the stage, some standing, some just laying there, face down. So creepy! Dracula also does an incredible pas de trio with two of them. Here's a video of another company doing it, but I have to say that Ballet West's was much, much better.
-I loved the coach that Renfield drove. It was always full of fog that would spill out when the coach went careening around the stage.
-At the end of Act I, there is a very graphic, very dark, very shocking scene where Dracula bites this girl Flora's neck. It was surprisingly animalistic. Dracula has her on the ground, then stradles her and yanks her head up to bite her neck while she kicks and twitches. Holy cats. I was honestly speechless when the curtain went down after that scene. Oh, and before the curtain goes down, Dracula does this amazingly uncomfortable dance on the floor and the other vampire women swoop in and start tearing the girl up to feed on her too. Then Flora shows up in Act II as a vampire and exits the stage hanging bent over backwards from the back of the coach. If I could be in that ballet, that is the part I would want.
-Burning vampires (this is especially for you, Joel)! One vampire melted into a puff of fog, and SPOILER ALERT, Dracula goes up in flames (being fireworks) inside the chandelier, then ends up dangling out of the bottom of it right before the final curtain closes. I like to think that he wasn't really dead.
-Act II was a village scene. Normally these are the most boring in the ballet, alongside wedding scenes and anywhere else there's a pas de deux. This was village scene plus pas de deux, which is kind of a recipe for boring, long-winded dances. This village scene, however, was so entertaining. It was humorous and fun and infused with a very folk dance feel, but all the ballerinas were in black pointe shoes with boot tops to make them look like boots. For anyone who's not familiar with ballet, the folk (or character, as it's called in ballet (which really isn't the same as folk dance, but rather a mix of folk and ballet)) dances are usually done in heeled character shoes. The mere fact that they were in pointe shoes was awesome.
-Oh man, what else was so good? Everything, really. The costuming and set were amazing. I'm a big fan of Dracula's cape. I also loved that I went twice and pretty much saw two completely different shows. Dracula himself was so different from cast to cast. Above all, the amazing acting, especially from Dracula, really made the ballet. Everyone was so 100% into their characters, and that passion was conveyed very, very well.
Okay, I need to stop now, because
P.S. I got all my images here and here, where you can see even more and read someone else's opinion of the ballet (SPOILER ALERT: she liked it too).