Ballet is not my forte. Seldom do I elect to go and see one, no matter what the piece, but Dracula really kept me entertained. It was my first time to Vera Altunina’s International Ballet Theatre (IBT) and I was surprised that there even was a ballet for Bram Stoker’s Dracula. I knew the story, and wondered how they would interpret the story of this great vampire. I tried to look for examples of the music for this ballet, but every one that I found was different from the last. So, the only thing I was sure of was that there was a vampire. This very eclectic and romantic version of Dracula will be playing through Halloween, so go see it while you can.
Dracula has many stories attached to it. IBT’s cult classic is the story of Jonathan, Mina, and Lucy, three young people who come to a small Transylvanian village and are slowly seduced into Dracula’s castle. This story has many extremes and easily contrasts the loving gleeful youth with the violent but passionate demons.
Kristofer Forrest’s lighting design makes Dracula’s world come to life with gels and complex layering. He extends the world of Transylvania by having light projectors shining out into the audience. While mildly blinding, it is a good way to show the confusion in the characters. The characters are also highlighted by the use of spotlights during particular scenes. During a passionate dance between Jonathan and Mina, Forrest lights the dancers, but also entwines their silhouettes. The shadows never line up properly and seem to symbolize the fact that, though Mina and Jonathan are ready to be married, they can never be together.
This symbolism extends to the music. It has a range of styles from waltz jazz to some very entertaining Irish jigs. It reminded me of putting my computer’s music on shuffle. However, that does not distract from the storyline. Each piece is chosen specifically for the scene that it portrays. The sequence with the demons is wonderfully done with Charles Gounod’s Faust. It has the energy and passion of the demons and ghouls, while it still has some beauty to it. Its strength is in the harsh but commanding mode of the piece.
Ballets generally do not have much of a wooden set and Dracula is no exception. The only set that is used is four wooden boxes on wheels, a set of chairs, and a table. This gives the dancers room to dance, but is also functional. The boxes give the dancers levels to dance on and creates a much-juxtaposed world. Sheila Edwards’ projections help to add a nice background for the story. They don’t inhibit the motion of the dance, but do establish a world to dance in. The projections also show the passage of time. If one were to watch just the background, one could see how long each scene is and how quickly the characters are admitted into the soul of Dracula.
Dracula and his world of Transylvania are defined by the spectacularly done costumes in the show. Treva Putsche’s choice of traditional eastern European dress is fantastic; it helps to show where they are in the world. The character costumes are kind of non-descript, but the folk scene really puts the audience into Transylvania. Each costume is very detailed and unique. Each demon has its own interpretative costume that helps to portray its individuality. In addition, the costuming of the gypsies is unique. Each female gypsy has a floor length gown, which is a stark contrast to the village girls, whose skirts are only knee length. It was my first time seeing an interpretation of a gypsy who was not considered to also be a tart.
The gypsies give a lot of life to the show and so do the rest of the dancers. The group scenes are just as well done as the intimate dances. The choreography is not just that of ballet but also of jazz and other art forms; it made it entertaining. It has the basics of classic ballet but then it takes it to a new level. It shows the passion in the dance because of the mixture of the different kinds of dances. The love story is a slow and moving classic ballet, while the demonic portions are fantastic and vivacious. At the performance that I attended, there were a few costume malfunctions in the first act, and the performers were not always together. Though as a ballet this may have looked bad, as a folk dance it was perfect. Folk dances do not need to have every dancer doing exactly the same thing because they are for celebration and not for artistic feeling.
The story is a unique interpretation of Dracula because it focuses on the people who are not Dracula more than Dracula himself. He seems to be just the token character of the story instead of the main character. He does not even dance in the ballet, which is somewhat odd. However, IBT does stick to the theme that they present. They create their own world of Dracula by picking their music, and though at times it seems strange to see an Irish jig at the end of a Transylvanian play, it is still a lot of fun
The venue is completely dressed up for Dracula. Outside there is a moving and talking gargoyle to accent the creepiness of Dracula’s castle. There are some very cool little stands with toys and stuff for the production, which also advertise their upcoming shows. There were not very many people on Friday, but I think that it will be packed for Halloween. This performance was very different than what I expected but it was still really entertaining. One just has to adopt the mindset that Dracula is a story for all to interpret and enjoy.
October 26th, 2007
International Ballet Theatre
Through October 31st
More info and show times: interballettheatre.org
IBT's Ticket Office: 425-284-0444
Special offer for Teen Tix members and their guests: 2 for $10 advance tickets to Dracula on Tuesday, October 30th! Call 425-284-0444 to reserve your tickets today! Note: you must be a Teen Tix member to take advantage of this offer. You will need to show your Teen Tix pass at will call in order to claim your tickets. Not a Teen Tix member yet? Sign up today, it's FREE! Go here to register.
International Ballet Theatre performs at the Meydenbauer Theatre, 11100 NE 6th St, Bellevue, WA. It is served by Metro Transit routes 555, 556, 271, 233, 237, 249, 261, 342, 230, 232, 253, 240, 885, 921 and many others. For bus routes and times: tripplanner.metrokc.gov
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