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NUTCRACKER: December 2008

Bishop rolls out Refurbished Dracula

By Lily Olason

Sometimes, seeing annual shows is an exercise in a reviewer’s patience and observation. Not so with this second staging of John Bishop’s original ballet, Dracula. Built with beautiful and demanding choreography, ornate lighting schemes, and artistic storytelling of some of the world’s most alluring folklore, the Northwest Ballet Theater doesn’t fail to excite this creepiest and crawliest of seasons.


I won’t delve into a complete rehashing of the plot here, but if you find you just can’t fit in a full reading of Stoker’s novel, might I recommend Wikipedia.

The cast is gifted, to say the least. They completely and totally commit themselves to their respective rolls; you can hear the squeaks and the slamming of bodies on the floor and the whirl of fabric and the thumping on tables. There’s a murmur of wonderment within the crowd, that people could subject themselves to this for a few hours and still keep the appropriate expression on their faces. Which, I’m sure, is something of what they’re going for up there.

Joshua D. Deininger dances marvelously as the evilest of the undead, Count Dracula. Viciously pursuing mortals, fighting off their respective love interests, and flying around people’s houses as a bat, Deininger does it all. With the perfect execution of a multitude of technically difficult things, from lifts to turns and spins and other moves that I do not have the vocabulary for, this man reminds us how skilled one must be to make this type of art.


Dancing beautifully alongside him is Delci Syvertson as Lucy. Her work in solo and duet is equally excellent, whether it be getting twirled by Dracula or chased with a wooden stake. Nowhere is her prowess most evident than the beginning of the second act, as she dances perhaps the most integral part of the story with ease and agility, and quickly, terror. Sister Mina is danced by Shannan McCormick Behrens, who makes hard work look like cake. Her scenes with Dracula toward the end make quite evident her total finesse and ingenuity as a dancer and the emotion and dexterity needed to become this character.

Natasha Keeley knocks it out of the park as the venomous Robin to Deininger’s Batman, or, rather, Countess Bathory. Her scenes with the fantastic Alona Christman as Renfield are terrific and her attitude has attained that optimal level of evil. Both choreographer John Bishop and Reese Rollison rock as Mina and Lucy’s love interests; each bring a real emotional force to the show, most notably just before and after intermission. The fight scenes are also pretty great. Van Helsing is danced by Angus McLane, who is an inspired choice for the role. Of course, the entire ensemble is spectacular, and each and every dancer within it is indubitably gifted.


The lighting, set, and props, while decidedly minimalist, are particularly compelling and well executed. There are so many things added, so many things tweaked and made different, that this rendition feels little like last fall’s; each is their own entity. Bottom line, if you saw this last October, do see it again. It’s fresh and new and completely remodeled. And, of course, what better way to ring in Halloween than with a couple of vampires?


Dracula plays October 25 at 7:30 p.m. and October 26 at 4:30 p.m. at the Mount Baker Theatre in Bellingham. Visit the MBT website for tickets and more information.


Review: Northwest Ballet Theater’s opening night of Dracula
By Daniella Beccaria

Northwest Ballet Theater’s enchanting and thrilling performance revealing the legend of Count Dracula brought the audience to their feet in a well-deserved standing ovation on opening night Saturday, October 18.

Dracula and Mina photo by John Fischer
Dracula and Mina
photo by John Fischer

The performance featured the brilliant director and dancer John Bishop himself, as well as a few guest artists in a heart-racing tale of love and death.
Act I opens on Dracula’s lair where Jonathan Harker, played by Bishop, is signing papers. Dracula emerged with a commanding solo of high jetés and quick turns: a choreographic treat showcasing Joshua Deininger’s talent for flying high.

The scene shifted to focus the spotlight on Renfield, a curiously disturbed mad man played by guest artist, Alona Christman. In the solo that followed, Christman’s deranged and manic dance captured all eyes of the audience, following her through a beautiful and tragic modern dance number.

Guest artist Natasha Keeley danced a dark and mesmerizing Countess Bathory, as she battled for control over Christman (Renfield) and his ship for Dracula’s transport. The sharp contrast in their characters accompanied by their performance prominently featuring a table was reminiscent of the battle between Neil and Sabra in the 2009 So You Think You Can Dance performance to “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This.)”

NBT’s Delci Syvertson showed a defining strength and talent in her dancing in her role as Lucy, a flirty young girl who’s seduced by Dracula. Syvertson’s beautiful lines and extensions paired with a natural acting ability brought a refreshing youthfulness amidst the darkness of Dracula.

As the story unfolded, the corps de ballet proved to be strong in both technique and acting. Each of the girls took on their roles with confidence, and their hard work in rehearsals truly showed in their performance.

Act II came as a whirlwind of drama and violence as Jonathan, Mina, Dr. Van Helsing and Arthur thwarted Lucy’s vampiric rebirth all the while fending off the wraiths and vampires. During this time, the Queen Wraith dances among them in an electrifying and sinister performance by Amanda Alexander.

The corps de ballet immersed themselves into their roles once again but this time as vampires. It was easy to see they were enjoying themselves just as much as the audience enjoyed watching them.

Guest artist Shannan McCormick Behrens, who danced the role of Mina Harker, exhibited her exquisite technique and graceful beauty in her pas de deux with Dracula. Each lift seemed more effortless than the one before; a performance that truly showcased her attention to detail.

With only two more performances this weekend at the Mt. Baker Theater, Dracula is definitely a ballet worth sinking your teeth into.

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