by Sofia Tokar
Let’s face it: Vampires are the “it” supernatural creatures of the moment—from Twilight and True Blood to The Vampire Diaries and Jane Slayre. Vampires have long featured in mythology and Sesame Street, so it was only a matter of time before the ballet jumped on the blood-sucking bandwagon.
To that end, the Rochester City Ballet presented The Blood Countess, an original full-length ballet weaving together the stories of Elizabeth Bathory (a 16th-century Hungarian countess who allegedly bathed in the blood of virgin servant girls) and Count Dracula (Bram Stoker’s creation inspired in part by Vlad the Impaler).
The production opens with a bucolic Hungarian country scene—lasses dance in chiffon dresses and gents prance in knee-high boots; meanwhile, a man in a Technicolor dreamcoat surveys the scene. Having recently arrived from a two-week stay in Hungary, I can vouch for the verisimilitude of this opening scene. But like an uncle who’s had too much palinka before, during, and after dinner, the mood in the room soon takes on a sinister turn.
The trend, of late, has been to recast the villainous vampire as a tragic, tortured soul (see: Edward Cullen, Bill Compton, Count Chocula). The Blood Countess follows this trend. While the Countess is the beguiling, sexy, and vain seducer, Dracula—engaged to the sweetly benign Anna—is the object of Elizabeth’s affection. After a night of drinking, Dracula finds himself in the Countess’ bedchamber, supposedly under a “lust spell.” Lust spell, beer goggles… call it what you want. The point is that we have a classic love triangle and a PSA about drinking all rolled into one sumptuous production.
I won’t spoil the ending for you. Just know this: The dancing is top-notch, the costumes and sets evocative. Dmitri Shostakovich’s string quartets and piano trios are hauntingly beautiful, albeit a bit repetitive. As far as I know, Shostakovich’s pieces were not originally composed for the ballet. Therefore, while the story and dancing evolve, the music somewhat stalls.
But that’s a minor quibble. The Blood Countess successfully demonstrates ballet’s commitment to staying modern, relevant, and popular. I look forward to seeing RCB’s interpretation of Night of the Living Dead.