Preview: Dracula

Cuban ballet dancer Javier Torres generally has no problem playing baddies unless, like Dracula, he has to invest them with tenderness

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“I consider myself to be a sweet guy,” insists Javier Torres about his proclivity for playing baddies. “I’ve performed as O’Brien in 1984 and the Commandant in The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas but Dracula is different.”

The Cuban ballet dancer is reprising the role of the infamous Count for a five-night run in his adopted hometown of Leeds. On Halloween itself it will be streamed live from the Playhouse into cinemas – an added pressure he says, since he’s never done it before, but one that he relishes.

“I have never had any problems with playing evil characters. I quite like them. The challenge for me is that Dracula is a different kind of evil than I’ve done before,” says Torres, pointing to the tender aspects of Dracula’s personality, which the dancer believes are the legacy of the vampire’s former human life. “The hardest thing is including the tenderness with an evil character. It’s very hard to do, especially in one ballet and in one character.”

It’s not the only challenge Torres is facing in this production for Northern Ballet, which he joined as a premier dancer in 2010. He also has to look the part.

“The costumes look amazing but the cape is very challenging to dance in. I would say it weighs at least 3-4kg, probably more.

“There’s a moment where I have to forget that I have arms. I need to think that I have wings, that I am a bat – it’s really hard. It can interfere with your dancing but it helps you with your character a lot.”

Torres, who trained at the National School of Ballet in Havana, is lugging the cape around every day in rehearsal at the moment. He first played the role in 2014 opposite former Northern Ballet leading soloist Dreda Blow. This time the role of Mina, the innocent object of Dracula’s obsession, is Harrogate-born dancer Abigail Prudames.

“Performing the last duet from Dracula with Dreda is one of the highlights of my career,” says Torres, but he adds that he doesn’t remember the production being as good in 2014 as it is this year.

“This is the first time that Abigail has done the role of Mina and it’s a very hard role. The second act is especially challenging. The transformation of Mina from human to vampire is very physically demanding, but working together has been amazing.

“It’s always hard when I’ve performed a role with another dancer before. You compare how your partner does things, or how you do things with that partner. This is one of the challenges for dancers – doing the same role with different partners. Of course, each dancer gives you different things you can learn.”

As rehearsals come to end Torres is looking forward to performance days, which he says typically consist of training from noon for a couple of hours, a short break and then a three hour technical rehearsal. Normally he’d have a break before curtain call but since Dracula requires such a transformation it’s straight into hair and makeup after a quick shower.

“The show will finish by about 9.35pm and then I have to get out of the wig and all the makeup. Sometimes I’ll get food after the show but often I am on too much of a high to eat. It always takes me two to three hours after the show to wind down and relax before I go to bed.”

And on his days off he doesn’t get much opportunity to rest, he says, since he’s studying business management through the Open University. But if it all sounds a bit superhuman, he’s reassuring when he describes what he does in the rare moments of free time he does get.

“I like to drink gin and tonic, be on the sofa, eating crisps and watching Netflix.”

Dracula is at Leeds Playhouse 28 Oct-2 Nov ( It’s streamed into cinemas on 31 Oct ( 

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