'Dracula' gets the ballet touch in Denver

By Jen Mulson Updated: October 4, 2017 at 9:34 am • Published: October 4, 2017 0
photo - Colorado Ballet dancers Domenico Luciano and Chandra Kuykendall star in the 2014 production of "Dracula." Photo credit: Mike Watson
Colorado Ballet dancers Domenico Luciano and Chandra Kuykendall star in the 2014 production of "Dracula." Photo credit: Mike Watson

This ballet isn't for the young or faint of heart, but it could be ideal for those who normally scoff at the idea of any outing that involves men in tights and women in tutus.

This is "Dracula" by the Colorado Ballet, and it's nothing like "Swan Lake" or "The Nutcracker."

"It's very popular," said Colorado Ballet artistic director Gil Boggs. "Everybody loves it. It's different. It's very theatrical. It's dark, with an original score, and it's gruesome."

The show opens Friday and runs through Oct. 15 at Ellie Caulkins Opera House at Denver Center for the Performing Arts.

The Denver-based company first mounted the show in 2001 and has done it at least half a dozen times since, most recently in the fall of 2014. Dancers and crowds eat it up, and as Boggs put the season together, he knew it was time to bring it back.

"I was looking at the other productions being done in Denver," he said, "and we were going up against 'Frozen' and 'Hamilton,' so I knew we needed to do some programming that looked a little different from that. The dancers love dancing it, too, with the movement. There's a lot of rolling on the floor. It's different from classical ballet."

Colorado Ballet dancers Tracy Jones and Christophor Moulton star in the upcoming production of "Dracula." Courtesy Colorado Ballet. 

Many people know the gist of Irish author Bram Stoker's 1897 Gothic horror novel: Count Dracula moves from Transylvania to England in search of fresh blood and a chance to spread the curse of the undead. Little does he know the English people won't go down without a fight, when a group of villagers track him back to his castle in Europe and seek to permanently end him.

Internationally acclaimed choreographer Michael Pink first set the novel to its balletic counterpart in 1996.

"You read the book and then decide how closely do you want to follow it?" Boggs said about the process of dramatizing the book. "Michael follows it almost to a 'T.' He thinks of the choreography and how Dracula is going to move, and how he interacts with (Jonathan) Harker (one of the novel's protagonists)."

Then it's on to designing the sets and costumes and hiring a composer. The end result is nothing short of thrilling. And bloody in one particular spot.

"It's intense and has scary moments, but it's also very sensual," Boggs said. "Dracula is the most sensual villain you'll ever meet."

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