Dracula, Grand Rapids Ballet

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With the exception of Guy Maddin’s film Dracula, Pages from a Virgin’s Diary (2002), starring Wei-Qiang Zhang as the undead count, I had never seen Dracula translated to dance. On October 25, 2013, I attended in company Grand Rapids Ballet (Michigan) opening performance of Dracula. The ballet was presented in two acts with a brief intermission and running approximately two hours. We sat in the front row and enjoyed every blood-letting minute.

Fans of the macabre will rejoice during Act II, which features an electrifying chase sequence where the protagonists Jonathan Harker (Nicholas Schultz), Texan Quincey P. Morris (Steven Houser), Lord Arthur Godalming (Kyohei Giovanni Yoshida) and Abraham Van Helsing (Dave Naquin) pursue in athletic prowess the nefarious Count Dracula (Stephen Sanford). The resurrection of Lucy (performed with tongue-in-cheek gusto by Yuka Oba) gave me shivers, with choreography reminiscent of the restored “spider Regan staircase” footage from The Exorcist (1973). Issac Aoki probably has the funnest and most athletic role in the ballet as the insect-chewing straight jacketed madman R.M. Renfield.

Stephen Sanford is terrific in the lead, reminding me physically of actor Frank Langella (Dracula, 1979). I preferred seeing Sanford paired with Dawnell Dryja’s Mina Harker, but admittedly, I know nothing about dance and this purely comes from the opinion of a film buff.

Horror fans will appreciate a gruesome bite scene at the end of Act I. This was grand fun appropriate for all ages with a nod toward patrons of the macabre. Dracula plays through November 2, 2013 at the Wege Theatre.

www.grballet.com

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