Thursday, October 18, 2007

Dracula: The Ballet

I know that's a wacky title, but I'm gonna back it up. This last trip I made it to Columbus, where I saw my college pal Lillian. She, aside from having a cool name, is the head backstage honcho at the Capitol Theatre there, and I hung out with her all day while she honchoed. There were a couple of shows going on that day, and being Lillian's friend meant I got to drop into any of them I wanted, and so I couldn't pass up the dress rehearsal of BalletMet's Dracula.
I know it's a shortcoming, but there's a fundamental disconnect between me and ballet. The same thing happens to me every time I see one. I'll be cruising along, giving it a shot, and something makes me laugh, and I know it's not supposed to be funny because these people have dedicated their lives to this, but I look around anyway to see if anyone else is laughing, but they aren't because they're affluent and enrapt, and so I turn back, humbled like a five-year-old but still chuckling. Dracula started off almost the same way... with a guy in a G-string. Not tights with a thong over it. I mean the D-man glides up out of his coffin buck. I don't know if it was art, but as an attention-getter, it worked. I was enrapt.
Shut up.
As Lillian, a dancer herself, noted, there was almost as much modern dance as ballet in this ballet. Modern is exactly like ballet except that, instead of doing any ballet, you just do whatever you feel like doing. In this way, modern is like a lot of things. Dracula had a nifty crushed velvet cape that took swirly advantage of this freedom. It also made his tip-toe movements into a creepy glide. They also somehow got a whole castle on stage. And as old Jonathan Harker watched, slack-jawed and dance-belted, Dracula actually wriggled down the castle wall. Way cool.
You had to know the story to follow this version, because ballet dancers don't talk much. But it was easy to follow because of the strength of the acting behind the dancing, or I suppose the acting through the dancing. When Lucy's personality changes, it's right there on stage without gestures or words. The tug-of-war between Mina and Dracula was engaging even if you didn't know what was going on.
Another thing that made this ballet great: it had a severed head in it. Not some $2.99 mask stuffed with newspaper... it actually looked like Lucy. I have decided that every ballet needs a severed head. And at the end, Dracula climbs the castle again and vanishes in plain sight after being finally staked. Theater magic!
I think you can like something without knowing what the hell it is. I found myself thinking about this thing for several days after I saw it, and what that means is I enjoyed it. Don't know if I'm ready to go try out or anything, but if they ever put on another Dracula, or maybe a Nightmare On Elm Street, I'm going.

2 Comments:

Blogger Robert said...

LOL!!! You had a homo-moment with Dracula!!

12:56 AM  
Blogger philip said...

Phil, you said "Lillian, a dancer herself, noted, there was almost as much modern dance as ballet in this ballet. Modern is exactly like ballet except that, instead of doing any ballet, you just do whatever you feel like doing."

As usual, your insight goes right to the heart (and liver) of a perplexing question and have finally resolved for me: what the hell is the difference between ballet and mondern dance. And it was right there in front of me the whole time!

Thank y ou. thank you!!!

10:49 PM  

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