NBA Ballet, led by Koichi Kubo – a former principal dancer with the Colorado Ballet performed Michael Pink’s Dracula for the first time last week. This Dracula was created in 1996 for Northern Ballet on the occasion of Stoker's novel's 100th anniversary. Since, it has gained much popularity and has been performed by many companies in Europe and the United States.  

 Although this is a staged ballet, many would experience watching it as they would watching a horror movie or a musical with theatrical effects alongside narrative content. The production designs, especially the lavish décor and sets by Lez Brotherston (known for his designs for Matthew Bourne) are stunning and create a mysterious and gothic atmosphere, taking us to the 19th century Victorian era and Transylvania, home of vampires. Lighting effects by David Grill are just as effective and add more drama to the stage. The lights turn off, all of a sudden, and after some chilling events, the title, in bloody red letters appears on the screen, just like a thriller flick and the audience is in for a thrilling ride.The title role was played by guest Yusuke Onuki, who is more of a contemporary/jazz dancer, with only a few years’ experience in ballet.

But the success of the performance is very much down to him. A tall, lithe dancer with long limbs and striking stage presence, he rules the stage, with charisma. As a creature, he is filled with lust, but also with a certain sadness, that of a monster who cannot exist without blood and has to live forever in solitude. In all his movements, whether a glare, a move of the finger, a crawl on the flooror a very high leap... he does it all with dignity and grace! I couldn't take my eyes from him. He partnered three dancers, and these dances include a sensual male duet with complicated and extreme lifts: each were executed with dedication and to chilling effects.  Michael Pink is skilled at choreographing pas de deux, and the thrilling duet between Dracula and Harker, especially, was just breathtaking.

Kubo returns to the stage in the role of Jonathan Harker, which he performed many times with Colorado Ballet. Not only is he brilliant in this role that involves intense partnering, but his ability to express the fears, the terrors and the panics within his twisted body movements nis outstanding. It is with his acting that we can follow the rather complicated story. Chiaki Minegishi was a pure-hearted Mina, Shoko Tazawa, as Lucy, shows incredible transformation versatility,and her vivid and explosive dancing, as one of the undeads that was truly impressive.

The NBA Ballet ensemble did a decent job, as there were many characters with names that had to make this ballet dramatic, and they succeeded in creating the narative. Doctor Van Helsing, Renfield the lunatic patient, the two suitors...were all lively acted, and Masayuki Takahashi, as the Bell Boy, was a show-stopper, with virtuosic technique displaying multiple turns and light leaps of delight.

Pink was not only great at choreographing duets. His feel for building an entertaining piece, with the inclusion of elements of sexuality, violence and rock’n’ roll within a clearly gothic artistic style was quite amazing. The three gorgeous undead women crawling on Harker’s bed was a grotesque but beautiful and sensual nightmare. The final feast of sixteen undead zombies brought so much rapture and fun that we understood why this work was so popular. We are convinced that this Dracula will also have a cult following here in Japan, and will possibly be performed annually in the Halloween season.