Ballet bites back: Dracula: Ballet with a Bite is a new spin on an old classic

Columbia City Ballet recently brought their production of “Dracula: Ballet With A Bite” to Coastal for the first time in 14 years on Oct. 22.

Conceived and choreographed by William Starrett, the show takes a classic figure of popular culture and gives it a contemporary twist. The basic story is still mostly rooted in its source material, but the music takes a different turn than you would expect from a ballet.

As someone who has limited exposure to ballet, it was certainly an interesting experience.

Story wise, it follows the original novel closely. Even if you don’t know the story, a little bit helps for some context.

Of course, being a ballet, the storytelling is all visual, which was done here through some excellent choreography and acting. There was no shortage of spellbinding acrobatics that made my body ache just watching them.

Not only that, but the performances were surprisingly comedic at times. There were several moments where I heard the audience bursting out in laughter, especially when Dracula not-so-subtly tried to suck Jonathan Harker’s blood. A large stake was driven through Dracula’s heart, squirting blood like a ketchup bottle, and even him flying out of his coffin being represented through a little rubber bat on a string was hilarious.

While the performances of the entire cast were undoubtedly a highlight, Cesar Davalos as Count Dracula was a standout for me. As for the music, I’ll say it gave me a bit of whiplash at first, but not at all in a bad way.

The show started out with the kind of music you would expect from a ballet, but soon delved into a variety of genres and even incorporated some contemporary pop songs. This created a contrast through different scenes and settings, such as more civilian-focused scenes featuring classical styled songs and scenes featuring Dracula and his underlings with energetic dance music.

However, there is one nitpick I had with the music.

There was a periodic use of this dramatic organ sound to punctuate certain moments, but the serene music would continue playing with it. To me, it just felt like neither of the sounds had room to breathe. This could be me showing my ignorance when it comes to production, but I thought it was worth pointing out.

Still, the sound design was overall top notch, and paired well with the practical effects, lighting and set design. Dracula’s castle was especially a favorite of mine, with fog being used throughout for some excellent atmosphere. The costume design was pretty good too, and I loved Dracula’s extravagantly long cape near the end.

However, I can say that it was a fun experience, and something I’d be willing to do again. The cast and crew of Columbia City Ballet did an outstanding job, and I would definitely recommend keeping an eye out for their future productions.

Even if you don’t consider yourself the type for ballet, these folks are still worth checking out.