Wednesday, 16 October 2013 10:39

Newer Isn't Always Better: GR Ballet Performs Dracula

Written by  Shelby Pendowski
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GRBC presents Dracula GRBC presents Dracula PHOTO: Wende Clark

Grand Rapids Ballet Presents Dracula
Peter Martin Wege Theatre, Grand Rapids
Oct. 25-27, Oct. 31-Nov. 2
Show times at 2 and 7:30 p.m.
$12-$40
grballet.com, (616) 454-4771

Before glittering diamond skin, vegetarianism and werewolf hatred came around to screw up classic lore, vampires owned the night, seducing countless victims. In 1897, Bram Stoker sculpted the first iconic vampire: Dracula. In Stoker's novel, Dracula possessed all the legend qualities — beauty, lust for human blood, the ability to fly as a bat, repelled by garlic and deathly allergic to the sun — to properly display a horror character.

This required reading for many high schoolers, college students and horror enthusiasts creates the ground work for many of the vampire films, books and comics. But when it comes to performing arts, the Grand Rapids Ballet Company sticks to the original.

"The production itself really holds true to the original story and the book," said artistic director Patricia Baker. "The heart and the essence of the book is there."

While perfecting Dracula, the company is also working on productions later in the season such as A Midsummer's Night Dream and The Nutcracker. With daily rehearsals always changing to accommodate the three ballets, the 19 company dancers concentrate on their many-casted roles and the advice from the various choreographers in order to preserve the meanings of each individual tale.

Dracula took not only the extensive hours of practice, but also the puzzle work of choreographers Roger Van Fleteren and Wes Chapman, as well as the director and all participants to make sure accuracy of the novel stayed intact.

This is not the first time GRBC has performed Dracula. Two years ago, the company performed this beloved seasonal ballet. This time around. GRBC revamped the performance with a new original score by Thomas Helms, upgraded projections, better technology and costumes, which resemble the time period in Stoker's novel. The set, also historically accurate, incorporates the contrasting red with the dark, daunting colors described to be lurking in the castle of the Count.

Research struck as a key component to making sure the adaption is accurate. Each of the main characters – Dracula, Lucy and Dracula's three wives – were double or triple cast. So, in order to learn their parts, many of the dancers hit the books. Stephen Sanford, who plays Dracula, and Laura McQueen Schultz, who plays one of the wives said watching various films, reading many Internet sources and reviewing the novel proved the most effective way to learn their roles.

"You are always thinking of new avenues to take and how you want to accomplish what you want the audience to get out of it," Sanford said.

For those who know and love the dark and eery tale of the stalking monster, the plot line of the ballet will hold no surprises. The dancers, however, aim to bring to life the readers' imaginations and to properly portray the novel.

"It is the classic story of Dracula" Barker said. "It is the one that started it all ... if you haven't gone back in time to really see what happened the first time, this is really your opportunity."

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