History in the Making

An Historian About… the Royal Winnipeg Ballet's Dracula!

With a world-renowned ballet company like the Royal Winnipeg Ballet in my city, I take advantage of any chance I can get to see one of their performances! In a very odd twist of fate, I was able to see Dracula twice in October, or at least parts of it. I’m not usually a Halloween type of person, but this does seem to be quite fitting viewing for the holiday!
Royal Winnipeg Ballet's,

To recap, when I went to Ballet in the Park in the summer, I decided to enter the Best Ballet Pose contest. I don’t normally enter contests as I have terrible luck, but I decided that it was worth a shot. If nothing else, it gave me a chance to practice my Cechetti arms for ballet class. Long story short, I won! And my prize for winning? Free tickets to Dracula!
I was all set to attend the show on 27 October; M was going to be here, the seats were fantastic, and if the PR was any indication, the show was going to be amazing. Imagine my surprise when I opened my email to find an invitation to a working rehearsal for Dracula at the RWB in mid-October… Roughly an hour long, I was able to watch Ballet Masters Johnny Change and Jaime Vargas work with a handful of dancers on two different scenes in the ballet. As a dancer, nothing is more fascinating to me than watching a professional class or rehearsal. While seeing the actual performance is wonderful, it is something else to see all of the work and intentions that go into it. A sequence can look like an entirely different piece when you change the dancers dancing it.
Royal Winnipeg Ballet Dracula Contest
M and I arrived the full hour before, as I figured that there would be something happening beforehand. I was not wrong, we were able to see a pre-show talk with dancer Katie Bonnell! The pre-show talk I caught before Peter Pan was a touch awkward, but the host being a former dancer herself asked the perfect questions and kept everything loose and easy. Some dancers are quiet or aloof or generally not interested in talking about themselves, but Katie was incredibly open and easy-going, and is certainly an asset to the company in both personality and talent! (Sidenote: how amazing of a boyfriend is M that he was willing to not only come to the ballet with me but also sit through the pre-show talk??)
Royal Winnipeg Ballet Dracula Ticket
We then made our way into the theatre and took our seats, incredible that they were. I can’t thank the Royal Winnipeg Ballet enough for choosing me as a winner in the competition and providing seats in the first ten rows. Dracula was set to the music of Gustav Mahler, a nineteenth century Austrian composer. I was unfamiliar with his works prior, but I have added a few movements to my Spotify playlists! Not necessarily a typical ballet composer, the haunting pieces were perfect for a ballet like Dracula. The first act shows Lucy’s descent into madness, and her overall decline into vampirism via Dracula himself. After Intermission, the entire company took part in a five minute comical pantomime version of the entire story that couldn’t have been more funnier- the perfect light touch for a dark and seriuos ballet. The red dance was next, featuring the wolf and several dancers in red (if you hadn’t guessed). The main plot resumes with Jonathan Harker almost seduced by three vampires, who then shares the story with his fiance Mina who is intrigued by the world. The final scene sees Mina with Dracula, until he is hunted down and killed by Dr. Van Helsing, Jonathan, and Lucy’s three suitors!
Royal Winnipeg Ballet Dracula Program
The only portion of the ballet that I was not in love with was “The Red Dance”; I understand that the choregrapher (Mark Godden) was evoking folk and character dance to represent those in the story, but I found it disjointed and ill-fitting. However, I still loved this ballet! I have to say, Thiago Dos Santos absolutely stole the show as Dr. Van Helsing- you could not keep your eyes off of him while he was on stage. One of his strengths is character roles- Thiago is more than able to take on a character role and embody it without being camp and over the top. If he does not have more time on stage than Dracula, it is very close- he provides a steady character throughout the somewhat brief narrative. (This is very common in any adapted ballet; unless a storyline is specifically created for a ballet, plot points and characters must be cut to allow proper time for everything.) My other favourite was Sophia Lee; I don’t believe that you could find a more convincing and expressive dancer if you wanted to. Different from the other roles that I have seen her in, she was stunning as one of the three vampiresses. I desperately wish that I could be as articulate and exacting a dancer as she is, but I will have to settle for watching her!
What novel would you like to see as a ballet?
Until tomorrow,
The Historian!

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