Dracula Returns to Haunt AUC This Weekend
When Fort Wayne Ballet staged its world premiere ballet Dracula in the fall of 2020, the launch was decidedly muted compared to other performances. Although their home mainstage at Arts United Center was finally reopened after months of lockdown, seating capacity was dramatically curtailed due to social distancing requirements. With rows and seats roped off, audience members were spaced throughout the auditorium, adding a bit to the intensity of the story itself.
Of course, none of that was on the horizon when Karen Gibbons-Brown, artistic director of Fort Wayne Ballet, first began imagining a production of Dracula for her growing and talented company of dancers, and she decided to turn to choreographer, ballet mistress, and faculty member Tracy Tritz.
“There are so many versions, and I saw several of them but thought ‘Why would I do one of those when I have this lovely choreographer here with us?’” Gibbons-Brown recalled.
The idea was first brought to Tritz early in 2019, and a few scenes were included in the company’s fall performance of that year. With the debut planned for the following fall, things were moving along until the lockdown sent Tritz and her dancers home for months. Tritz approached the story of Dracula in the purest form, the original novel rather than the plethora of versions which has been presented since.
“She really holds true to the story,” Gibbons-Brown said. “There are so many versions even in dance, and they take a lot of liberties. But she has taken the original story and maintained the characterizations and story.”
“Dracula has been portrayed in so many artistic ways,” Tritz said. “A lot of them don’t use the book as a reference and don’t portray the characters as Bram Stoker actually did in the book. We’ve been able to delve deeper into the characters as he wrote them.”
After the premiere in 2020, the ballet moved forward as they could within certain limitations, only returning to normal in the last year. It was unclear if that was the end of Dracula or not.
“I did not know what the future would hold for it,” Tritz said. “I had done it during lockdown with however many bodies we were allowed to have so I thought maybe, maybe not about anything else. But it was March of this year that I heard we’d be doing it again this fall.”
The difference this year, in addition to full capacity audiences, is that its creator has already staged and watched the full performances and brought that experience into representing it two years later.
“Just seeing it on the stage gave me a good vision of it,” Tritz said. “It’s so up-close in the studio, but to see it in the theatre and on video gave me a chance to redo or do a few things differently. With COVID we had dancers in and out, and there are some dancers that aren’t with the company anymore. Most of the leads are returning – we have the same Van Helsing, the same Harker, Dracula, Lucy – and a few are gone – we have a new Mina – but as I got into the studio and saw how they do their role, I made adjustments as I needed to. But I’ve found I could make some things more difficult, and I’m really, really happy with the dancers. I had high expectations, and they have exceeded them.”
Gibbons-Brown is happy to bring the production back so more people can appreciate Tritz’s beautiful work.
“I was anxious to repeat it for a couple of reasons,” Gibbons-Brown said. “COVID prevented it from being seen, and now that we’re back to a normal capacity, hopefully more will be able to see it. And it’s normal for companies to repeat productions so that the dancers can do more each time and keep improving their performances. It lets the dancers really sink their teeth into it and allows them to grow.”
(Pun, Gibbons-Brown assured, unintended.)
Both Gibbons-Brown and Tritz emphasize that the production is not appropriate for children, with graphic content – true to the Stoker vision – making it too intense for younger audiences. Gibbons-Brown points to the Youth Company’s upcoming performances of Peter & the Wolf (October 29 at the FWB studios in the Auer Center) as more suitable for both young and young at heart audiences.
Performances for Dracula run October 20-22 with 7:30 p.m. performances each day. Additionally, there will be an 11:30 p.m. performance on Friday, October 21 with a Transylvania Twist party – featuring Pizza Hut pizza, punch, and music from Alicia Pyle and her band – at 10:30 at the Gallery above the AUC auditorium. To purchase tickets to any of these special performances, visit artstix.org or call (260) 422-4226. For more information about the upcoming Fort Wayne Ballet season, visit fortwayneballet.org.