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Ballet Fantastique Gives Famed Colonial Ghost Story The Virtual Treatment

Bob Williams
Photo provided by Ballet Fantastique

Halloween during a pandemic already packs a scare factor, but a Eugene dance company is going to up the chills even more Saturday night. As KLCC’s Brian Bull reports, it’s nothing to lose your head over if you keep your spirits up.

“The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” is an encore production from Ballet Fantastique’s 2017 lineup. The classic tale of schoolmaster Ichabod Crane being chased by a headless horseman is retold through gothic sets, dazzling costumes, and an atmospheric original score.

Hannah Bontrager is the company’s executive director. She said the performance is a spooky spoof of Washington Irving’s 1820 ghost story.

“Some parts are definitely scary, and then we also have just the rom-com or romantic comedy that Ballet Fantastique loves so much," she told KLCC.  "And there are parts that are really hauntingly beautiful, and there are other parts that are silly on purpose.

"And we try to make it something that’s fun for audiences who love ballet already, but also really accessible for kids or folks who don’t necessarily think of themselves as traditional ballet fans.”

Credit Bob Williams / Photo provided by Ballet Fantastique
Photo provided by Ballet Fantastique
Ichabod Crane's slumber is thwarted by visiting spectres. But what's reality and what's illusion?

This is a mother-daughter effort, reworked as a virtual production to keep audiences entertained yet safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Company founder Donna Bontrager says it’s been fun to work with the supernatural elements of the storyline. This includes a scene where Ichabod Crane tries to rest in a guestroom:

“And as he goes to sleep, he has this dream and these specters come into the room and they spin the bed around, and they’re dancing all around him, and he’s terrified," explained the elder Bontrager.

"And it’s really fun to have played around with those ideas and made scenes that are almost scary humorous.”

The company warns that an Act II scene with the iconic headless horseman may be a bit scary for some… but the question remains…is Ichabod Crane experiencing an actual spirit?

Credit Bob Williams / Photo provided by Ballet Fantastique
Photo provided by Ballet Fantastique
The Headless Horseman trots out into the stormy night.

“You don’t know as an audience member if it’s all in his head, or if it’s really happening," said Hannah Bontrager.  "And that’s something that I think is so important about art, is the subjectivity of being an audience member and getting to decide for yourself.”

Ballet Fantastique’s production of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”will stream at 6pm Halloween night, as a virtual watch party. Details are available at the company’s website.

Copyright 2020, KLCC.

Brian Bull is an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Oregon, and remains a contributor to the KLCC news department. He began working with KLCC in June 2016.   In his 27+ years as a public media journalist, he's worked at NPR, Twin Cities Public Television, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including four national Edward R. Murrow Awards (22 regional),  the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award, Best Radio Reporter from  the Native American Journalists Association, and the PRNDI/NEFE Award for Excellence in Consumer Finance Reporting.
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