Volume 93, Issue 101
Friday, April 7, 2000
|ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Dracula casts ballet in new light
Gazette file photo
By Anthea Rowe
Opera glasses. Rich old people. Black tie dress. Two monotonous hours of dainty women and equally dainty men in tights. Falling asleep after the first 10 minutes. These thoughts all spring to mind upon the mention of those five dreaded words, "Let's go to the ballet."
Dance companies are commonly criticized for their boring representations of love stories and fairy tales the best known are probably Swan Lake and The Nutcracker. However, with its latest production, the Royal Winnipeg Ballet is breaking the mould by presenting a full-length ballet version of the classic horror tale, Dracula.
Dracula's success at the box office will be reflective of its entertainment value. "People will be really entertained by [the performance]," boasts company dancer Cindy Marie Small. She adds that people who wouldn't usually attend a ballet performance would come out of curiosity to see what it would be like "They [may] find themselves enjoying ballet, [which] I don't think a lot of them expect to [do]."
Small, 29, has been dancing for 20 years 10 of which have been with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. In Dracula, Small plays Mina Murray, while Dracula himself is played by renowned dancer Zhang Wei-Qiang.
Small has nothing but praise for choreographer Mark Godden's attempt at a rather unorthodox ballet performance. She remarks on the amount of time and energy that went into the project before finally arriving at a finished product. "[Godden had] about two months [where] he actually had the dancers to rehearse with," she explains. "But he was also in the studio himself for months before that."
Apparently all the hard work is paying off. Dracula has received rave reviews from both the media and the public. "The response from audience members and the papers have been nothing but wonderful for the ballet," she says. According to Small, the production is successful because it tells a story that people don't expect from a ballet company.
Another pleasant surprise is the diversity of the audience members themselves. No longer is the ballet only being attended by people in black tuxes and ball gowns. Small observes that Dracula is drawing audiences from all walks of life.
"We did the premi¸re of [it] last year on Halloween night and there were people in the audience that were all dressed up in costumes," she recalls.
Why is the audience for Dracula more diverse than those of other ballet performances? Simply stated, because the show is fun.
As an example of the production's comedic style, Small chooses to describe the ballet's second act. "There are dummies dropping from the ceiling and people getting their heads chopped off it's very comical and the audience members laugh right out loud."
Dracula is not the Royal Winnipeg Ballet's first attempt at what one might call a horror show. In the past, it has also successfully staged the story of Lizzy Borden. Although Small doesn't know what the company's plans are for the future, she thinks another shocking production similar to the Dracula would be equally successful. "The box office doesn't lie. Obviously people are interested in ballet when it's performing a story they all know."
For someone who has never been to a professional ballet performance before, Small suggests Dracula is a great place to start. "For a first-time ballet-goer especially, it's wonderful to see because you get a taste of what it's like to see a [traditional] story as well as a fun spoof on Dracula."
In other words, it's a ballet the audience can really sink their teeth into.
Copyright © The Gazette 2000