‘Dracula’: Expect The Unexpected

by Remy Miller
Mindy Borie
Contributing Writers

We did not really know what to expect from “Dracula: The Ballet.” We knew, of course, that it would be hilarious — but not whether it would be hilarious in a good way or a really, really bad way. Luckily we were fine with either of these options. However, even going in with no expectations it was … not what we expected.

We certainly did not expect a voiceover in a ballet. That unexpected voiceover also told a very confusing lie about when and where the action began. When you tell a story about 15th-century Turkey and end it with the sentence “Our story begins four hundred years later in England,” the audience is not expecting a scene from 15th-century Turkey. No sooner had we sorted out that mess than the ballet came to an unexpected, screeching halt. A technical difficulty involving a rising platform instigated a do-over. This meant we got to see Dracula perform his ritual sacrifice twice, the second time with a legion of demons (played by 12-year-olds recruited from a dance school) blocking the way.

There is no politically correct way to say this, so we will be frank: Dracula was old. He no longer had the ability to make us believe that he was floating weightlessly across the stage. His failure to portray that magic is something we cannot forgive. The lead of a ballet should not be a portly middle-aged gentleman unless devoid of other options — which they were not. For instance, the dancer portraying Renfield was a true pleasure to watch. He captured the air of sycophantic servility that we find ourselves so fond of, and his violent, untimely end at the hands of “Dracula’s brides” was another one of our favorite scenes — there is something strangely captivating about watching dance portray violence. Speaking of pleasures to behold, Mina was spectacular; her dancing alone elevated the ballet from mediocre to enjoyable.

Back to the plot, which, in a paragraph, is this: Dracula, a brutal warrior, comes back from a battle to find his love, Elizabeta, dead. Overcome by grief he renounces the church and makes a deal with demons, becoming a vampire. Four centuries later, a man named Jonathan comes to Dracula’s castle and Jonathan (henceforth and forevermore to be known as Poor Jonathan) has the misfortune to be engaged to Mina, a woman who looks just like Elizabeta. Dracula, of course, gets rid of Poor Jonathan by having him stuffed into a coffin. Mina comes to visit Poor Jonathan, but is warned away by Dracula’s (previously) loyal servant Renfield, which leads to the gruesome death mentioned above. Dracula throws a party and Mina comes back with her friends, Dr. Van Helsing and Lucy. Dracula kills her friend, turns her into a vampire and then forces Poor Jonathan to fight for her. This, of course, is pointless, because Dracula cannot be killed by swords. Luckily for Poor Jonathan, Van Helsing comes and … kills (maybe) Dracula. Then, there is the surprise ending, to be discussed later.

If you know the story of Dracula at all, you recognize how very cracked this interpretation is. It seems as though, instead of reading the book, the choreographers watched Coppola’s 1992 “Dracula” and reinterpreted further. We were not expecting Elizabeta — who exists in Coppola’s version, but not in the novel. We did not expect Renfield to die in the first act. We did not expect Poor Jonathan to spend most of the ballet trapped in a coffin, only to be released, forced to fight and finally killed by his fiancée.

This, for those not familiar with the plot of Dracula, is the surprise ending (which, for us, was spoiled in the program). Mina, instead of being cured by Dracula’s (possible) death, remains a vampire. She kills Poor Jonathan and retreats back to the coffin that had imprisoned her fiancé. The ballet closes with Dracula’s maniacal laughter. It did not take us long to join in it.

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