Review – Colorado Ballet’s Blood-Curdling Performance of Dracula

With bloody pointe shoes, chilling special effects and undead dancers, the Colorado Ballet initiated the Halloween season with a uniquely dark performance of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The story is an infamous literary pillar of the gothic genre. Equipped with foreboding castles, stormy nights and mysteriously handsome figures, the novel has chilled the bones of generations for over a century and has transformed through endless adaptations. 

The newest translation of Dracula took vampires from the page to the stage. From October 7 to 16, the Colorado Ballet performed its own rendition of the gothic tale. Featuring choreography by Michael Pink and Philip Feeney’s original score, dancers were accompanied by the Colorado Ballet Orchestra and singers from The Evans Choir. 

“This year, it is an honor to bring Colorado Ballet’s 62nd chapter to life through a season of timeless tales, told from the darkest corridors of a Transylvanian castle to the steps of a fairy tale palace, and beyond,“ Colorado Ballet artistic director, Gil Boggs, said, relishing in the ballet’s ability to unify and transport audiences. “A testament to the beauty, strength and awe-inspiring versatility of ballet, I hope this season inspires and delights you with each effortless sauté.”

Artists of Colorado Ballet by Mike Watson.

With more light-hearted shows coming up, such as Cinderella and The Nutcracker, the Colorado Ballet’s performance of Dracula was a fascinatingly dark departure from the usual whimsy of ballet. After attending the October 15 matinee performance, I was haunted by the ornate visuals and supernatural movements. Nicolas Pelletier played the titular character, transforming completely from human to menacing enigma. A Canadian native, Pelletier has studied at the San Francisco Ballet School, trained with Canada’s National Ballet School and danced extensively with the Alberta Ballet. He joined the Colorado Ballet in 2017. Pelletier’s performance as Dracula was supernatural. From the brute strength required to partner fellow male dancer, the talented Kevin Gaël Thomas as Harker, to the control necessary for hanging elegantly bat-like from banisters, Pelletier’s vast range of skills chilled the entire audience. 

The women of Dracula inspired equal awe and horror. Soloist Leah McFadden played Mina during this particular performance. After joining Colorado Ballet Studio Company in 2016, McFadden was quickly promoted to the main company in 2018. Demi-Soloist Mackenzie Dessens Studinski played the opposing female lead, joining the Colorado Ballet in 2015.

Both leading women effortlessly conveyed the seduction of evil and an esteemed woman’s resulting descent into darkness through movement. When the audience first meets Mina and Lucy, they are esteemed, ultimately happy members of society. However, after falling victim to Dracula, both women slip into a sort of madness, whether through mutating into a vampire or joining Dracula’s clan of the undead. McFadden and Dessens Studinski’s ability to perform such opposite natures was mesmerizing. 

The ballet invites people of all ages and communities to escape to magical worlds. Adults and children alike gathered to witness the dark magic of Dracula. Donning vampire cloaks or kitty ears, the ballet transformed the Ellie Caulkins Opera House into a gathering place for any and all Halloween enthusiasts. 

Learn more at coloradoballet.org.