Christopher Gable, director of Northern Ballet Theatre, says: "Dracula lends itself to what dance does best. It is about great passions and longings, about fear and sensuality. I asked: 'Is it possible, in today's violent world, to do something that is disturbing to an audience?' I think yes, and remember, we show good triumphant over evil."
Gable has visited Whitby and Transylvania during his research and, in a new departure, asked his dancers to improvise drama and dance pieces on the Dracula theme before they began rehearsals. Plugging into the "vast creative resource of the company" in the improvisation workshops has been the most exciting part of creating Dracula.
Gable has kept faith with Bram Stoker's novel but one major change is the race to Transylvania in the final scene with the climax taking place in a vast crypt. When the rescuers burst through a wall, the morning sunlight floods in and it's au revoir Count Dracula!
Northern Ballet's Education Officer Greta Dawson is planning supporting workshops for the GCSE year and above, dealing initially with terror and madness. She wants to examine reasons for madness and to deal with fear of the unknown and unseen. Philip Feeney's specially composed music, a strident and seering score, will be in constant use.
Crowd scenes will be a ready source for group work, particularly an exquisite society tea dance at a Whitby hotel and an episode when villagers parade an effigy of Dracula. The tea dance is witty, filled with splendidly defined characters and danced briskly; the villagers progress to a thumping, stamping beat, working up to a tribal frenzy as they fling Dracula's effigy to a group who stab it and hang it.
Gable's use of a huge permanent staircase, for the seaside hotel and Dracula's castle, will give Dawson an opportunity to explore ascending and descending movements. Her sessions will be taken before her students see the ballet and the work will include some preparation for watching a performance, the points to look out for and the most effective stage and dramatic techniques.
Bradford Alhambra from September 16, then tours nationally. Details of venues, education pack and cd, contact NBT, 0113 274 5355.