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Mark Bruce Company Presents Dracula - Interview with Jonathan Goddard

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Jonathan Goddard on gothic dance and working with the RSC
Dracula is seeing quite a revival at the moment through the launch of new movies and a TV series, but the vampire story also gets transformed through dance in Birmingham this week.

DanceXchange's Autumn Season hosts a special contemporary dance version of Dracula by the Mark Bruce Company at The Patrick Centre from October 15 to 18 and stars award-winning dancer Jonathan Goddard in the title role.

Jonathan Goddard
Award-winning dancer Jonathan Goddard in the role of Dracula

Jonathan, a dancer that has gained acclaim for his contemporary dance, took time out of his busy schedule of rehearsals for a chat ahead of coming to Birmingham.

"This dance version of Dracula was very much the vision of choreographer Mark Bruce and what he has done with it is very true to the book," Jonathan says. "We've really looked at the Gothic part of the novel, going back to the themes of the Victoria era when it was written, when religion versus science was a prominent issue.

"When I got this part, the first thing I did was to read the book and I consciously didn't watch the films. There are so many modern adaptations where you are made to feel sorry for the vampires but the book is actually about real fear not that romantic image of Dracula."

Scenes from the dance version of Dracula starring Jonathan Goddard

"We weren't sure if it could work out, but together Mark and I discovered what a dancing Dracula could be," he adds, laughing.

A dancing Dracula may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you are trying to imagine the blood-thirsty, heartless villain but I am told that the choreography to music including Bach, Mozart, Ligetti and Fred Frith portrays the animalistic side to the vampire and the transformation of becoming something beast-like as well as the weariness and horror of being undead for centuries.

The production comes to Birmingham after winning the prestigious South Bank Sky Arts Award for Dance in 2014. It's another feather in his cap for Jonathan, who has already clinched a mantlepiece full of accolades.

In 2007, he was the first contemporary dancer to be nominated in the dance category of the South Bank Show /Times Newspaper Breakthrough Award, in 2008 he was nominated for an Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in Dance and went on to become the first contemporary dancer to win the Critics Circle National Dance Award for Best Male Dancer. He was also nominated twice more as Best Male Dancer by the Critics Circle in 2011 and 2012.

Along with dancing in productions for the Richard Alston Dance Company, Scottish Dance Theatre and Rambert Dance Company, to name a few, Jonathan has also been branching out into theatre. As a movement director, he is working with some of the top theatres and actors in the country.

Jonathan Goddard2
Dancer and movement director Jonathan Goddard out of costume

A regular with the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), his latest work includes this year's Two Gentlemen of Verona. He was also involved with London's National Theatre's play Strange Interlude and was a dance associate for Sam Mendes' hugely popular Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in the West End.

There is more to come too as Jonathan tells me how his next big project is working with The National Theatre again with actor Ralph Fiennes on Man and Superman from January 2015.

"There's a totally different mindset between actors and dancers," muses Jonathan. "Actors find the characters from within themselves while dancers just do what you tell them with the choreography and you have to work on the dramatic side of things later.

"With dancers you have to feed them and then they look at you afterwards to say 'did you like it?' With actors, they are given a character and they do something with it themselves. They don't look at you to ask for approval, so you need to be more careful with the language you use with actors in order to encourage them. However, most actors are very open to getting movement direction and a lot of plays now have a movement director."

Jonathan Goddard worked as a movement director on the RSC's Two Gentlemen of Verona production.

It's clear to see that Jonathan is driven to make dance more accessible through his work both on stage and from the wings. He has even taken this motivation out of theatres completely and into schools in recent years by founding an education project called DanceSpinner.

The scheme that encourages schoolchildren to explore and create choreography has continued to grow since being launched in 2008 and is now used in well over 200 UK schools. I ask him whether it was a legacy he was keen to leave behind.

"I think I've still got some years of performing in me yet, but I came up with the scheme because I was keen to demystify dance, I guess that it is some kind of legacy," adds Jonathan. "The project has taken on a life of its own.

"I wanted to make dance accessible to everyone as it can feel like it is something that is closed off, but making decisions about movement is something everyone can do. I see new ideas from the children and it's inspiring to see what they do with it."

Mark Bruce Company presents Dracula
The Patrick Centre, Hurst Street, Birmingham
Wednesday October 15 Saturday 18 October - 8pm
Recommended age for the show: 14
Running Time - 2hrs plus interval.

Tickets cost 15 or 10 concessions by calling 0844 338 5000 or booking online at the DanceXchange website.

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Why? See an award-winning dancer in action
When: October 15 - 18
Phone: 0844 338 5000
Where: Patrick Centre in Birmingham Hippodrome
Cost: 15
Your Comment
A dance performance sounds like a really intriguing take on Dracula.
by Bastion Harrison (score: 4|12626) 2652 days ago
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