Popcorn, cos-play – and ballet
By Narelle Wood
Melbourne City Ballet, under the artistic direction of Michael Pappalardo, brings gothic and grace together in a recreation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
The ballet hits all the major plot points: Jonathan Harker leaving a worried Mina behind as he goes off to meet the formidable Count Dracula. Malevolent Dracula decides a trip to London is in order, his vampiric brides attempt to feast on Harker, and of course there are the scared villagers who the heroes encounter along the way that offer helpful tokens such as garlic and crucifixes. It even includes that awkward moment when Mina takes Dracula to Lucy’s party, and Dracula’s infatuation begins, as well as Lucy’s demonic demise. Blood-sucking chaos ensues before humans triumph over the undead.
Overall the dancing was really strong with some extraordinary bits of choreography courtesy of Brendan Bradshaw who also stars as Dracula. The brides were menacing and seductive, often appearing on stage as if out of nowhere. The opening of the third act was one of my favorite ensemble performances of the night as female vampires, along with the brides, welcome Lucy to their fold, dancing in front of an eerie and turbulent grey backdrop. But by far the standout moment was the pas de deux between Dracula (Bradshaw) and Harker (Matthew Dillon), showcasing the strength of both the leads as they performed some very complex and intricate choreography. The other standout was Caroline Pais as Lucy. She epitomized transformation between her two characters; sweet as a human and completely menacing and in her vampire form. Yuiko Masukawa as Mina was also very strong but her character didn’t have a very large storyline.
The costumes were spectacular with lots of color and movement across the stage. The sets were also spectacular but there were a lot of transitions, some of which seemed a little superfluous and distracting, but nevertheless looked amazing. Kudos must also go to Bradshaw for lying in a closed coffin, albeit fake. There were some opening night bugs with lighting and a few awkward moments where the audience wasn’t quite sure whether the act had ended or not. The score was well chosen with a combination of music from Liszt and Rachmaninov: it was dark and brooding and everything you would expect, but I did find the transitions between movements a little abrupt at times.
Despite the horror genre and the dark nature of some of the characters, this is a fun ballet that’s well executed. It was definitely a good excuse to dust off the Halloween costume a little early, and was well-suited for fans of the ballet, gothic tales or both. I look forward to the Melbourne City Ballet’s performance of Madame Butterfly in December.
Dracula was performed from Oct 7-9 at Plenty Ranges and Darebin Arts and Entertainment Centre. For more information about upcoming performances, visit melbournecityballet.com.au