Last week I attend the opening night of Ballet West’s production of Dracula. Originally staged by Ben Stevenson and the Houston Ballet, the production had a lot of buzz around it, and I was extremely excited to see what was sure to be a fantastic spectacle…and what a perfect way to get in the Halloween spirit.
Sadly, I was a little disappointed. This was my third time see seeing Ballet West perform. My first impression was not good. I saw Swan Lake back in 1994 and I hated it. I thought the dancers were mediocre at best. My second impression was much better…it was quite good in fact. Last year I saw their tribute to the Ballet Russes and I loved it. I thought my first impression must have been result of my youthful ballet snobbery. But Dracula did not impress me overall. Don’t get me wrong, some things were great…but some things were really bad. Here’s my review:
The Story: B
The story was a little thin…but most classical ballets have a flimsy plot. So you can’t really fault it there.
The Music: A++
The music, composed by Franz Liszt, was wonderful and the orchestra was fantastic. That may have been the best part of the evening.
The Choreography: C-
The ballet was choreographed by Ben Stevenson (former Artistic Director at the Houston Ballet). For the most part I found the choreography to be an interesting mix of classical and contemporary ballet and I found it refreshing. But…and this a big but…some of it was awkward and just plain awful.
In the third act, Flora, Dracula’s head wife had a solo and it was one of the weirdest things I’ve ever seen on a stage (and I’ve seen some weird things including bad performance art). It reminded me of a combination of bad interpretive dance and the Mad TV character Stuart..."Look what I can do!” I actually cringed on several occasions.
The Costumes: A+
The costumes were wonderful. I especially enjoyed the gowns worn by Dracula’s wives and how the flowing skirts were incorporated in the choreography.
The Special Effect: A-
This is one of the elements I was most excited about. This ballet incorporates a lot of aerial work…Dracula and his wives can fly! And it was very cool, but the rope work was at times a bit jerky. The lighting and dry ice were dreadfully creepy…great!
The Dancing: B-
I have two thought about the dancing. First, I think the dancers might have been struggling a little with the unusual choreography. And second, I think they needed more rehearsal. The Corps de Ballet seemed to be out of sync with each other on several occasions and a few of them even seem to forget the steps…really not good. There were also several noticeable stumbles.
That being said, a few of the dancers really stood out in a positive way. Katherine Lawrence danced the role of Svetlana, and she was lovely. Aidan DeYoung dance the role of Renfield and I think he stole the show.
Overall Grade: B
Now that I’ve expressed my opinion I have to ask you to take it all with a grain of salt. As an ex-ballerina I may have some snobbery left in me. And my background may have skewed my opinion of the performance. Growing up in a major metropolitan area I had the opportunity to see, take class with, and even perform with the worlds most talented dancers. And for a short time, I was privileged enough to train at one of the worlds best (and most famous) ballet schools (The Bolshoi in Moscow). So, my expectations are always high…maybe too high.
All-in-all it was a good night and I had a great time. I will definitely attend more Ballet West performances.