Jan McNulty

Northern Ballet - Dracula - Leeds - September 2014

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Northern Ballet are performing David Nixon's Dracula at the wonderful West Yorkshire Playhouse in September.  The Company is currently in rehearsal and tweeted this picture today.

 

It reveals 3 Draculas to whet our appetite - Toby Batley, Javier Torres and Giuliano Contadini

 

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Northern Ballet have posted this amusing photograph on the company website

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Northern Ballet, Royal Armouries and Leeds University are holding a "Gothic event" at Leeds Central Library on 27th August at 6pm.

 

http://northernballet.com/?q=dracula/a-gothic-evening-at-leeds-library

 

A Gothic Evening at Leeds Library
Wednesday 27 August 2014 at 6pm

To celebrate the return of Northern Ballet's Dracula join us at Leeds Central Library for an evening with Royal Armouries and University of Leeds as we share insights on the gothic era and Bram Stoker’s legendary novel, Dracula.

We'll be asking why does it continue to influence art, culture and society and always keeps us thirsty for more.

book now

The event lasts approximately 90 minutes. Places are free but booking is essential.

 

 

The excitement is building!!!

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Northern Ballet opened their Autumn Season with their annual gig at the West Yorkshire Playhouse last Friday.  I’ve now seen four performances of Dracula with two to go tomorrow.

 

I’ve been watching and enjoying Northern Ballet since 1985 but I must say that in the last couple of years they seem to have an extra confidence and sparkle that, for me, has made all their performances unmissable.

 

I think of David Nixon’s production as being cerebral and he focuses on the control that Dracula has over his victims and the relationships between them.  He uses the device of Jonathan Harker looking at a photograph of Mina and dreaming about her to give Dracula the impetus to find and want her.  The ballet encompasses all the salient points of the novel and the ending is ambivalent in terms of Mina.  Was she still a vampire or not…

 

David made this production on his previous company Ballet Met, which has fewer dancers than Northern Ballet, and it has almost a chamber ballet feel about it.  It works wonderfully well in the more intimate setting of WYP. 

 

The only work for a corps is in the engagement party for Lucy and Arthur Holmwood.  I love the way it comes across very strongly that Seward loses Lucy twice, first when she rejects him in favour of Holmwood and then again with her death.  This was beautifully portrayed by all three dancers we saw in the role.  Again the interplay between the dancers shows the attraction/repulsion of Harker towards the Brides of Dracula and the same emotions between Mina and Dracula.

 

On Friday evening the cast we were privileged to see, apart from one exception, had danced the roles in the last run and all have grown in stature as artists since 2009.  Toby Batley gave the performance of his life as Dracula – he was strong and distant and controlling but attracted to Mina, so much so that you could see his mental anguish when he was deciding whether to make her a vampire or not (you have to drink a vampire’s blood to become a vampire – just having your blood drunk does not make you one).  Pippa Moore was a tour de force as flirtatious Lucy who becomes lascivious and blood-seeking as she is transformed.  Martha Leebolt inhabited the role of Mina and was utterly sublime.  Ashley Dixon gave a beautifully judged performance as Harker.  Hiro Takahashi as Holmwood, Kenny Tindall as Seward and Darren Goldsmith as Van Helsing all brought their inimitable stage presence to the roles.  Kevin Peoung gave a remarkable performance in his debut as Renfield.

 

Saturday afternoon saw Giuliano Contadini making his debut as the Count, with the always lovely Hannah Bateman as his Mina, Jeremy Curnier giving an intelligent reading of Harker and Antoinette Brooks Daw abandoned as Lucy.  Giuliano was a Dracula full of Latin passion! 

 

Saturday evening saw Javier Torres as Dracula.  He was all supressed passion and strength.  His anguish as he could not prevent himself from loving the sublime Dreda Blow as Mina was really quite heartbreaking.  Joseph Taylor had an innocence about him that made his reaction to Dracula all the more shocking.  Matthew Broadbent brought a lovely gravitas to the role of Van Helsing and Sebastian Loe was positively disturbing as Renfield.  Antoinette again danced the role of Lucy.  This cast also performed at the matinee yesterday afternoon and the performance was even more scintillating as the dancers in a short time have grown more into their characters.  The duet between Javier and Dreda literally took my breath away it was so beautiful.

 

One of the joys of being able to see several performances is seeing different casts and how all their different interpretations come across.  The three casts were very different but all had equally valid interpretations.

 

Roll on tomorrow!

 

I know other Forum members have seen performances, I would love to hear what you thought ...

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I was at the last performance of Dracula in West Yorkshire Playhouse last night and enjoyed it tremendously. West Yorkshire Playhouse is a few hundred yards from the company's headquarters at Quarry Hill so it is a special place for them and also for their audiences. Something magical often happens on the last night of their season in this theatre. It did last year with Midsummer Night's Dream and it also did last night. The crowd roared and at least half of us (including me) rose to our feet.

 

The ballet hangs around Dracula, Mina, Harker and Lucy danced impressively by Javier TorresDreda BlowAntoinette Brookes-Daw and Joseph Taylor with strong supporting performances by Lucia Solari, Jessica Morgan and Mariana Rodrigues as the brides of Dracula oozing sex and menace in equal measure, Seward (Nicola Gervasi), Holmwood (Isaac Lee-Baker) and Van Helsing (Matthew Broadbent). A special word of praise for Kevin Poeung who danced Renfield, a psychiatric patient confined to a cage tormented by his warder (Jeremy Cunier) who exploded into frenzy when released from his confinement.

The set, costume and lighting designs were imaginative. I was particularly impressed with Lucy's rose lid coffin and the horses of the night. The score by Alfred Schnitke and arranged by Mikhail Popov varied from the lyrical such as Mina's entry to the unearthly such as her pas de deux with Dracula. Nobody left the theatre humming the score but it worked very well.

 

On the way out I said goodnight to Janet McNulty. She was surprised to see me because she had been told I was planning to travel to Amsterdam to see the opening night of the Dutch National Ballet (of which I am also a Friend) and Van Dantzig's Swan Lake.. "Aren't you glad you came here tonight?" she asked. "Indeed, I am" I replied, "It might have been as good in Amsterdam but couldn't have been better."

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I was privileged to see the final 2 performances of Dracula yesterday.

 

What can I say ... Northern Ballet are absolutely on fire!!!

 

I have grown over the years to love this production, the more I've seen it the more I have seen in it.  Act 2 is stronger than Act 1 but there is much to enjoy in both.  

 

The duet between Dracula and Mina is stunning in its simplicity and depth of emotion.  You wouldn't think you could normally feel almost sorry for the blood-sucking count but this duet brings out all Dracula's yearning for Mina and her fascination and feelings for him.  Yesterday afternoon Martha Leebolt and Toby Batley moved me to tears and last night Dreda Blow and Javier Torres took my breath away.

 

The quality of the performances from all the dancers I have seen over the last week or so more than make up for any minor qualms about the production.  I'm sorry this short run has finished.

 

Thank you Northern Ballet for such a splendid start to the Autumn season.

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