GVSU professor stars as Dracula

Courtesy / Ron McKinney
Dracula played by GVSU professor Stephen Sandford.

Courtesy / Ron McKinney Dracula played by GVSU professor Stephen Sandford.

Kari Norton

The tale of Dracula has been presented in a variety of different ways, including adaptations for television and theater. As part of the 2013-14 Season, the Grand Rapids Ballet has decided to bring it to the stage once again in the form of dance.

The ballet’s Artistic Director, Patricia Barker, said the adaptation is based off Bram Stoker’s story, which was the very first vampire book ever written.

When it was first published in 1897, the tale was considered a “straightforward horror novel,” due to its use of imaginary characters and supernatural beings, she said.

In order to draw the audience back in time, costumes, sets and technology were used to help depict what life was like in the Victorian Era.

“One twist is that we get to use modern technology for our sets, such as Cinema 4D, helping to place the audience back in time so that the characters feel as if they are coming right off the pages of Bram Stoker’s epic tale of Dracula,” Barker said.

Technology and props have been used throughout the ballet, including a scene where Dracula’s throne rises out of the ground, another scene where fog rolls across the stage while the castle crypt flickers its lights, and the traditional bite scene.

“This interactivity immerses the audience, keeping their attention on the story being told on stage,” Barker said. “By combining traditional props and stagecraft with animated set designs, GRB brings Dracula into the 21st century with a great show to enjoy by all ages.”

Starring as Dracula is Stephen Sanford, an adjunct dance professor at Grand Valley State University.

What drew him to the part was the idea that everyone is always trying to be good and sometimes it’s fun to actually be the bad guy, he said. In addition, he gets to take part in telling a well-known story.

“It’s got a real goth-like feel to it and it’s like watching an old, silent movie,” Sanford said. “Instead of trying to shock and awe you the whole time, or keep you thrilled the whole time, (we portray) more of a creepy story.”

The Grand Rapids Ballet premiered Dracula in 2011 to sold out audiences, which made them decide to bring it back.

“This year’s production of Dracula features re-orchestrated and re-mastered music, updated choreography, and interactive set designs,” Barker said. “This production promises to frighten and entertain.”

The two-weekend long production began on Oct. 25 and will continue until Nov. 2 at the Peter Martin Wege Theatre. Halloween costumes are encouraged at all performances.

“Audiences young and old love Halloween and the idea of immortality,” Barker said. “Dracula is a fun way to start the Halloween festivities because there comes a time when we are just too old to trick or treat.”

Up to one hour before each show, GVSU students can purchase tickets for $12 with proof of a college ID. This College Rush Deal is available for all company performances, including The Nutcracker at the DeVos Performance Hall.

For more information, visit www.grballet.com/dracula
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