Ballet British Columbia
Queen Elizabeth Theatre February 24-27, 1999
Choreography: Mark Godden Music: Gustav Mahler
Set & Costume Design: Paul Daigle Lighting Design: David Morrison
By Ed Farolan
It's interesting how the Royal Winnipeg Ballet is going out on a limb to do an experiment in "dance theatre", as described by Executive Director Andrew Wilhelm-Boyles during the chat session before last February 27th matinee performance. The RWB has been known globally in the past 59 years of its existence to do conservative ballets like Swan Lake and other classical pieces. And now, it surprises me that it's doing something out of the ordinary. But I suppose, as we reach a new millenium, it's time to take risks.
I liked this production. The choreography was excellent; the dancers were superb; the sets and lights were fantastic. However, I didn't like the story line. Choreographer Mark Godden who got the go-signal from Artistic Director André Lewis to go ahead with a ballet version of Stoker's vampire story, was responsible for adapting the novel into this ballet version. The only thing I didn't like about this version is the second act. Godden's explanation for inserting this ludicrous tongue-in-cheek act is because he is "very much interested in what Hollywood has done with Dracula--the entertainment aspect of it." I think this is a lame excuse. You don't start a tragic story, and in the middle of it, you make a spoof of it, and then, in the third act, you go back where you left off in the first act.
Come on! Let's be consistent with the story-line. If you want to portray a philosophical tragedy, stick with it. No need for slapstick half-way gimmicks. If I were to adapt Dracula , I'd either make it a spoof all the way, or keep it faithful to the legendary story. So, that's the only big boo-boo, in my opinion. I can't blame Godden. He's a dancer, not a writer. But if this ballet is going international, as it plans to do--Europe, South America, Asia--better tighten up your act. Besides, without the second act, the play will still stand and be in the two-hour normal viewing period, instead of the 3-act, 2-intermission 145-minute long show it is now.
I was delighted to see Evelyn Hart in the Red Scene. She wasn't scheduled to dance, but she did, and I was happy to see her. Boy, was she good! I also liked Jesus Corrales as Dracula--that evil yet suave latino seducer. Caroline Gruber as Lucy was fragile and soft, truly feminine in her dance steps, and stayed in character as the first Dracula victim.
The choice of Gustav Mahler 's music for this ballet was a good one, and I particularly liked the last scene where the Vancouver Cantata Singers, under James Fankhauser and accompanied by the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, sang "Resurrection" as Dracula was hemmed in and spiked to death.