by Lenise Willis

Photo by Brent Lefever

Dracula to be performed at Winston-Salem Festival Ballet

When it comes to the monsters of Halloween, vampires are classically known as the sexiest, most alluring and most graceful of all the creatures. Their bodies are lean, long and fit, and their movements are swift. This is why Dracula is the perfect story for Winston-Salem Festival Ballet’s October performance.

“I approach the story from Dracula’s point of view, as a love story,” said Gary Taylor, choreographer, who translated the infamous vampire’s story to a ballet performance, replacing dialogue with the expression of movement.

Some may believe it’s difficult to tell, or even follow, a story without dialogue, like a complicated game of charades. However, Taylor reminds us that movement is more powerful than we give it credit.

“Movement is thoughts driven from the soul of a dancer,” Taylor said. “So, when choreographed and danced with that intent, anyone can follow along as if they were reading an epic novel. I find great joy in the challenge of creating stories. Once you’ve experienced a performance, you’ll then understand why WSFB’s slogan is Stories that Move.”

Just like in theater, Taylor must work with his characters’ development, creating personalities that will draw the audience in, only he does it with a very different tactic.

“Just as adjectives are used to add to dynamic variations in writing, so is movement timing, tempo, musicality, accents, levels and space combined with the use and connection to the music,” he said.

Of course, movement isn’t the only thing that drives the story.

As with any live production, the music greatly complements the story flow, as well as the mood reflected. For Taylor’s Dracula, Chris Heckman composed an original score.

Taylor says it matches the show “perfectly.” “The score that Chris has created is as epic as you could imagine and more,” Taylor said. “Every aspect of the ballet is enhanced to it’s fullest through his wonderful interpretation “¦ (from the) mysterious driving rhythm of the Masquerade “¦ to Dracula’s intense and dynamic theme when we first meet him in the woods.

“You can actually feel the beauty of the romance in the music between Mina and Jonathan at their romantic picnic in the woods.”

“It’s a must hear,” Taylor added. For those that enjoy the soundtrack, CDs will be for sale after the shows, and the tracks are available via iTunes.

Heckman was able to create such a perfectly matching score thanks to Taylor’s video footage from the first performance of his new choreography.

“Chris used the completed video footage to score the music, like when a composer composes to a movie,” Taylor explained.

The first time around, Taylor had simply used excerpts of different music. “It lacked the continuity from a single composer,” Taylor said.

Other than Taylor’s twist on the plotline and delivery, there’s another twist that the audience might not expect when they go to see the show “” more theatre-like costumes.

“It’s contemporary ballet, so the men are in pants “” not tights “” textured vests and billowy shirts, creating a timeless look,” Taylor said. “Even though the women are in classic pointe shoes, they are used to extend the line and not limit their movement.

“The leads are wearing beautiful flowing dresses relative to their role, and the female vampires have torn, tattered and dyed colors to represent the power of blood flowing throughout their veins while retaining an alluring vibrant flowing beauty.”

Performing as Dracula’s love interest, Mina, is Risa Yokoi, a prima ballerina originally from Tokushima, Japan. Yokoi has been dancing since the age of three when she trained at Teruki Shimada Ballet Theater. She went on to the Tokushima Ballet Theater where she passed The Royal Academy of Dance Advanced level with distinction, and at the age of 15, moved to the United States to further pursue her studies at Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan.

Tokoi’s past performances include Enchanted Princess in Sleeping Beauty and Snow Queen in The Nutcracker.

Taylor says that Yokoi’s participation has been valuable to the production thanks to her “strength in technique and versatility in adapting to the characters she’s portraying.”

With the unsettling presence of Dracula, and the sometimes dark and foreboding musical score combined with the grace and beauty of ballet, the performance is sure to be an intriguing juxtaposition. !


Winston-Salem Festival Ballet performs Dracula Oct. 23-26 at the Hanesbrands Theatre, N. 209 Spruce St., Winston-Salem. Tickets are $10-$23.50.

For tickets and more information call 747-1414 or visit