Ashley Bontrager and Gustavo Ramirez in Annabel LeePhoto by Bob Williams

Dance Macabre 

Ballet Fantastique dances a horror show in Nevermore

Ballet Fantastique thrills and chills with another world premiere, this time in the spirit of the spooky. Nevermore, which ran at the Hult Center Oct. 25-27 is a beautiful and bizarre production, more gothic dance theater than stiff ballet. Fog-blanketed coffins, creepy Parisian clowns, murderous plots, maddening minds and a grim wooded backdrop reminding any Murderinos present to stay out of the forest.   

Conceived and choreographed by Donna Marissa and Hannah Bontrager, Nevermore is a deeply methodical interpretation of the works of Edgar Allan Poe. Broken into vignettes, it presents Poe’s gloomiest and ghastliest poems set to music performed by a spellbinding trio of musicians, pianist Elizabeth Dorman, accordionist Sergei Teleshev and and cellist Dale Bradley. Who knew the accordion could be so lovely? 

The show opens with “Masque of the Red Death.” Grey bodies stalk the isles like zombies of the plague; a red velveted Prince Prospero (Gabriel Ritzmann) is oblivious to the growing sickness beyond his cobwebbed haunted mansion. An ensemble of teal and red dancers spin in ritualistic circles, ignoring the impending clock above.  

“Fall of the House of Usher” is perhaps the best of the night. Gustavo Ramirez and Carolin Koepplin are mesmerizing as the troubled brother and sister duo Roderick and Madeline Usher. Swaying and swirling in rhythm with their tormented minds, leaping and succumbing over and over until one final lift, a single spotlight illuminates Koepplin’s lone face like a campfire horror story. Bravo lighting crew (Donna Bontrager and Caroline Barnes).

Ramirez teams up with Ashley Bontrager in “Annabel Lee.” Bontrager is best as the dying Annabel. A pink tutu and tight curls are traded for a simple white slip, and messy locks whip around as Ramirez is desperate to hang on his beloved. Sexy and sinister, Lee is more attractive to her lover (and the audience) when she is dead. Creepy, right?

And what Poe show is complete without “The Raven”? Ritzmann plays the sleeping poet, casting shadows on an open veranda as he leaps around the stage. Koepplin is the Raven in an ombre, Black Swanesque tutu. She glides, then twitches, skittish like a bird, her power eminent over the shrinking poet.  

Never one to disappoint, Ballet Fantastique delights with something of the terrible in Nevermore.

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