Septime Webre's Twist on Dracula
by teresa wiltz
Dancers performing Michael Pink’s Dracula, which has been seen by more than one million fans since it premiered in 1996.
Fangs, blood, and the Transylvanian undead are not the archetypal images associated with classic ballet. (After all, Dracula conjures pointed teeth more than pointe shoes.) But as The Washington Ballet’s Septime Webre sees it, Bram Stoker’s legendary tale, which spins fantastic elements into a mysterious, haunting landscape, is wholly fitting for the ballet stage. And considering our current fascination with dark, supernatural folklore— as evidenced by the popularity of TV shows and films such as True Blood and Twilight—casting the Count could not be better timed.
“[‘Dracula’s] force has loomed large in the popular psyche, never more so than in the last few years,” says Webre, who serves as The Washington Ballet’s artistic director. “It tells a riveting tale of love and lust—and it’s great fodder for a psychological ballet.”
Choreographed by Michael Pink and featuring an original score by the English composer Philip Feeney, Dracula the ballet has been seen by more than a million fans since its premiere in 1996. The lavish, critically acclaimed production has been performed abroad by dance companies in New Zealand and the UK. Stateside it has been presented by Pink’s Milwaukee Ballet, the Atlanta Ballet, and the Colorado Ballet.
The Gothic staging closely follows Stoker’s original narrative: Jonathan Harker, a young London solicitor, heads to Transylvania to complete some real-estate transactions with the very rich and very deadly Count Dracula. As a guest at the Count’s castle, Harker is tempted in the night by a trio of bloodthirsty beauties and barely escapes back to England alive. The plot continues with Dracula wreaking terror on London and its denizens, particularly Harker’s virtuous fiancée, Mina, and her close friend Lucy.
Along the way, there is an erotic pas de deux between Harker and the Count, along with a dance of the undead set in the catacombs. For this ballet, expect sumptuous sets, eerie mood lighting, and lush period costumes.
Webre, who had long admired Stoker’s masterpiece, hopes the ballet will resonate with a younger audience. Still, he says, “You won’t see tweens from Twilight on stage.”
As for his own dancers, Webre says, tongue firmly in cheek, “I know the artists of The Washington Ballet will sink their teeth into this one.” Dracula runs from October 24 through November 4 at The Kennedy Center’s Eisenhower Theater, 2700 F St. NW, 202-362-3606
Celebrating the White House Correspondents’ Association’s annual dinner at Carnegie Library.