Monday, October 9, 2006

Dracula (the ballet)

During my last evening with the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, I was offered a ticket to a production of Dracula at Viterbo University. I was very eager and enthusiastic about attending this performance. I had wondered how the Dracula story might be performed as a ballet. I was especially interested in finding out how someone could bite necks and dance at the same time. That is certainly a more difficult undertaking than walking and chewing gum at the same time, yet many people can't do that (including me, on occasion).
The ballet, presented by the Royal Winnipeg Ballet of Canada, lived up to my hopes and then some. The choreography by Mark Golden and music by Gustav Mahler combined to tell Bram Stoker's story in a different and creative way. It was truly a multimedia production, with words projected on a screen, a backstage story teller, pantomime, dancing, and theatrical fog. The stark sets and the barely illuminated stage created an image of foreboding that made the tale of the vampire come to life.
The performers did the rest to re-create Bram Stoker's tale. Like F.W. Murnau's 1922 silent film Nosferatu (starring Max Schreck in the title role), the ballet tried to be faithful to the original story. The first half of the production was a ballet version of the entire story and the second half featured pantomimed variations on the theme of Dracula. The performances, especially by Dracula (Johnny Wright) and Lucy (Vanessa Lawson), were sensual and compelling. The relationship between Dracula and Lucy seemed strangely symbiotic and surreal. The pair inhabited a world that existed somewhere between wakefulness and sleep, where nothing felt quite real.
Bram Stoker's Dracula. of course, bears almost no relationship to the actual historical figure of Dracula. Vlad Dracula lived in the 15th century inTransylvania. He became the prince of Wallachia, and his rule was considered to be extremely bloody. Because of the gory method in which his enemies were killed, Dracula became known as "Vlad the Impaler."
There is no evidence that he ever bit anyone's neck or was transformed into a vampire. The story of Vlad Dracula can be found at http://members.aol.com/johnfranc/drac05.htm
The story is completely fictitious. Nevertheless, it was highly entertaining and worth seeing, should you get the chance.

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