Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Ballet performance of Dracula goes beyond the gore

October 18, 2017 by Alex Spezgurka, contributing writer

Ballet Victoria artistic and executive director Paul Destrooper is quick to point out that the gorier side of the 1897 Bram Stoker novel Dracula that Hollywood so lovingly dwells on is not the main focus of Ballet Victoria’s performance of the story.

“Dracula is much more than some monster, this vampire—much more than some bad guy that bites people,” says Destrooper. “People aren’t interested in these characters for those reasons. We are drawn in to Dracula by his promises of eternal life, eternal beauty. This is something that’s super relevant, because now more than ever do we wish to be beautiful and young forever.”

Ballet Victoria’s performance of Dracula is something a bit different from the Hollywood movies (photo provided).

Destrooper understands that there is some stigma surrounding the ballet, and that there is an idea out there that it’s something exclusive and high-fashion. But he says that’s not the case.

“Sure, a lot of people think ballet is old and dated, and that we’re no longer relevant,” he says. “But there are a lot of ballet companies, and we’re one of them, that’s bringing ballet back into this century, trying to make it relevant to today’s audiences. So in terms of the well-known Nutcracker cliche, it doesn’t really apply to some of the newer companies. We still focus heavily on those traditions, the technique, but in the art we are trying to do newer, interesting things, since we have to speak to a more diverse audience.”

Destrooper also says that companies like Ballet Victoria are taking old ballets and removing some of the things in them that he calls “horrendously politically incorrect.”

“When ballet first started, we travelled around the world, took things from the Middle East and China, and mocked them,” he says. “Like in The Nutcracker, we have the Arabian Dance and the Chinese Dance—all of these things were like, ‘Look what we’ve brought from these far-away lands.’ But they weren’t honest; they were satirical. In The Nutcracker, in the Chinese dance, where you squint and put your fingers up like chopsticks, it’s unbelievable that [ballet companies] think it’s still okay to do that. But now, we take these techniques and traditions, the stories like Giselle or Swan Lake, and we bring in today’s more colourful, open mind to different cultures.”

Even if audience members aren’t interested in dancing, Destrooper says that there’s something for them at this performance.

“First of all, come for the music,” he says. “We’ve got this beautiful blend of Beethoven, Benedictine music, and also more modern composers like Tyler Bates. Sometimes I use the same composer for a performance, but this one is really a beautiful blend. It’s entertaining and it flows right by. But if you already love ballet, or perhaps you yourself practice it in the more traditional fashion, there’s a lot here you already know. But I want to draw everyone in with some of the more exotic things.”

Dracula
7:30 pm Friday, October 27 and Saturday, October 28
2 pm Sunday, October 29
$23.50 and up, McPherson Playhouse
rmts.bc.ca

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