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‘Dracula’ Makeup Artist Michele Rees on turning dancers into characters

Fake blood, grease paint and tooth enamel. Michele Rees, freelance makeup artist, will be working with all three over the next two weekends as she assists our costume shop backstage at Dracula.

Rees, who worked with former Artistic Director and Choreographer David Nixon and our costume team to develop the original looks for the ballet in 1999, assists the dancers throughout the show with makeup and hair.

Here, she tells us more about the challenges of Dracula and the process of transforming our dancers into those villainous characters.

What’s it like working on Dracula again? What are you referencing to recreate the looks?

It’s fun! It’s all coming back to me. I enjoy doing character makeup, and I love working with the dancers. [I’m using] old pictures. It’s my memory, and Erin [Rollins, BalletMet’s costume shop manager] showed me some pictures of the very first time we did it and sketches. She showed me what’s morphed over the years of what they did.

What all went in to creating these looks in 1999?

It’s coming up with and trying to see what colors are available in the makeup world, especially for the creatures, looking at drawings and kind of collaborating on what’s possible and what you can bring to the table. Basically, sometimes you’re having to try to find what coloring is going to match the color of the costumes. You know, they’re supposed to look dead. There’s a lot of contouring and highlighting to make them look skeletal. It’s fun to make their mouths look stitched up. You’re working one on one with the designers, with the costume designer and David [Nixon]. He’s got his ideas. You just do your best to make their vision come alive.

What are some of the challenges with Dracula?

The timing. You’re doing quite a lot of people in a short amount of time. So that’s always a challenge. That’s when you’re going to get some of the dancers to come with their base on, come prepped and in costume. Particularly Renfield, he’s got a lot to get done in a short amount of time. He’s got to get up and get into that cage. You’ve got a short amount of time to make it look likes he’s got scratches all over his body, make him look crazy. He’ll come with some of his makeup on. As soon as I get it done, he’ll run up and get into the cage. Same with the creatures, they have to come with some of it on, especially the last person I do. I’m getting it done close to when they have to get on stage.

What are some of the products you use for Dracula?

With Renfield, I get to play with the thick blood and some of the grease paints, and I believe we use red tooth enamel that stays. When they sweat, you have to think about if it sweats off, it’s not going to look very good. There’s something called Barrier Spray, which we spray on the makeup to keep it on and red tooth enamel will keep scratches on Renfield and some makeup on top of that. That’s another challenge is the sweating. We use pancake makeup and a few more things that are a little bit more stage makeup-y.[vc_video link=””]