I don’t know much about dance, and so sometimes I shy away from reviewing dance shows, because I feel that I don’t have the expertise to critique it. When I heard about COLLIDE’s new production of Dracula, my instinct was not to go, because how could I talk about jazz dance when I couldn’t remember which kind of dancing that is? But the allure of an all-dance production of Dracula with a live band playing pop music was too strong.
What I probably should have remembered was that a good show shouldn’t require its audience to have expertise in a field to enjoy the production. I don’t know the names of all the fancy leaps and spins the dancers executed on the stage of the Ritz, but that didn’t prevent me from noticing the strength and grace and energy with which the dancers moved. I mean, I also can’t carry a tune in a bucket, but I can tell you that Michael Hanna (the titular vampire) has an excellent voice and absolutely killed it with his sultry, creepy renditions of “Every Breath You Take”, “I Want You to Want Me”, and “Creep” (among others).
COLLIDE’s dance musical features a live band playing at the back of the stage, two vocalists (one seated with the band, one on stage as Dracula), and a cast of ten dancers. The stage is set fairly simply – as it would have to be, to accomodate all the dancing – and the lighting and effects are fairly simple, which allows the music and the dance to be the main focus. Considering its change from Bram Stoker’s 19th century novel to a 90 minute dialogue-free dance musical, the story remains impressively intact. It is set in modern day New York and Dracula’s buddy Renfield is a woman instead of a man, but those are surface changes. The story – vampire loves woman, woman loves man, vampire kills another woman, vampire is sad – is the same, including the fact that Dracula is the outsider who is instigator of the main action rather than the main charact. Indeed, he is the only one who is part of the action who sings, and the only one who doesn’t dance. Probably a smart move – maybe I’m being close-minded, but I might have a harder time taking the “dark prince” seriously if he were twirling and leaping.
I particularly enjoyed Regina Peluso‘s manic performance as Renfield, and Jami Snively was especially fun to watch as the undead version of Lucy. As previously mentioned, Michael Hanna was spot-on as Dracula, somehow conveying strength and allure as well as confusion and longing. Really, the whole cast was lovely to watch.
This might not be a great choice for everyone; I can just imagine my no-nonsense father rolling his eyes and asking why they don’t just stand still and say what they mean instead of spinning around all the time. But if you feel a little adventurous (or, of course, if you are a dance fan to begin with), this is a gem of a show. I would love to see more women characters fighting their own battles and fewer big strong men carrying little ladies off the stage in their arms, but I appreciate that this is a 120-year-old tale.
Word to the wise: the performers repeatedly run up and down the aisles, including the aisle dividing front and back sections of the house. So, while the front rows may give you a better view of the stage, the back section will allow you to see all of the action without craning your neck around periodically.
I am very glad that I ignored my concerns and opted to see Dracula; it was a little different, very accessible for this dance n00b, and highly entertaining. I look forward to seeing what COLLIDE, now wrapping up their third season, comes up with next.
COLLIDE’s Dracula runs March 10-20, 2016 at the Ritz Theater, 345 13th Ave NE, Minneapolis, MN. Tickets are $24-$45 at http://www.collidethatrical.org or (877) 508-7890