Spooky Ballet Premieres to Watch Before Halloween

October 12, 2023

The autumn chill finally creeps in this October, along with three chilling new works from American companies. Last year, we saw an increase in Halloween-themed ballets, and the trend continues in 2023 with plenty of scary stories onstage.

Several companies are presenting ballets on theme this fall, such as The Joffrey Ballet’s Frankenstein, Wonderbound’s Wicked Bayou, Deos Contemporary Ballet’s Trifles, Ballet Fantastique’s Nevermore, and several Draculas by companies like Ballet Pensacola, Dayton Ballet, and NWA Ballet Theatre. San Diego–based The Rosin Box Project also returns with its Ghost Light Masquerade, an immersive contemporary ballet experience that embraces theatrical superstitions, and Kansas City Ballet presents the North American premiere of Val Caniparoli’s Jekyll & Hyde.

Three new performances also join this season’s supernatural repertoire: Ballet Rhode Island’s Death and the Maiden, Ballet Idaho’s The Gathering Dark program, and Avant Chamber Ballet’s Dracula. Get into the spirit of spooky season with these three premieres!

Ballet Rhode Island’s Death and the Maiden

A close-up of a female dancer rehearsing in a studio. She wears a long, white fabric skirt that trails behind her and rests on a prop in the background. She reaches toward the camera with a determined, serious look, her body twisting up and her left arm bent so her left fingers touch her collarbone lightly.
Hannah Wood rehearsing for Death and the Maiden.
Photo by Dylan Giles, courtesy Ballet Rhode Island.

Ballet Rhode Island performs first, October 13–15 at Providence’s Woodman Center, with its program Death and the Maiden. The bill features two powerful works: a classic retelling and an original premiere. First is José Limón’s 1949 The Moor’s Pavane, which explores the drama of Shakespeare’s famed play, Othello.

Second on the program is a world premiere set to Franz Schubert’s string quartet Death and the Maiden, played live by Aurea Ensemble. The new work, also titled Death and the Maiden, is choreographed by BRI artistic curator Yury Yanowsky and Ken Ossola, and it explores themes of darkness and humanity. Yanowsky and Ossola have alternated choreographing the four movements in Schubert’s score. “What excites me most about watching this collaboration unfold is the way in which Ken and Yury individually have such unique choreographic voices, but their styles are interwoven in a way that is seamless and beautiful,” says artistic director Kathleen Breen Combes.

Ballet Idaho’s The Gathering Dark

In front of a dark blue backdrop, a male dancer poses in a forced arch attitude derriere, his arms flying upward gently.
Leonardo González. Photo by Quinn Wharton, courtesy Ballet Idaho.

October 26–28 at the Morrison Center for Performing Arts, Ballet Idaho presents The Gathering Dark program, a mixed bill of two new works and one revival.

“This show offers a journey through choreographic idiom and movement style, all delightfully spooky, at times playful, and at other moments more brooding and intense,” says Ballet Idaho’s artistic director, Garrett Andersen.

The program includes two currently untitled world premieres and one revival of Dani Rowe’s Dreamland, a ballet created on the company in 2018 and set to music by Valgeir Sigurðsson and Ezio Bosso. Rowe’s work was inspired by a recurring nightmare and showcases a few central characters within a throng of ensemble dancers.

Also on the program is Dresden-based Joseph Hernandez’s new creation, an abstract commentary on Giselle’s second act that features the iconic Wilis, women who died after being betrayed by their lovers. Hernandez collaborated with musician and composer Barret Anspach to reimagine the romantic ballet blanc through a modern lens.

Finally, Penny Saunders presents a new work connecting movement, character, and narrative in the style of 1930–40s radio dramas. Featuring Saunders’ signature dialogue and soundscape designs, the work showcases two reporters, a detective, and several side characters attempting to untangle a murder mystery.       

Avant Chamber Ballet’s Dracula

In front of a blood-red backdrop, a male dancer dressed as Dracula faces his back towards the camera and extends his arms to the side, his long black cape obscuring his body. In front of him, a ballerina in a long, whispy white dress holds onto his arms facing her back towards his, leaning over slightly in a forced-arch fourth position. Her long brown hair is down.
Diego Miranda-Monsman and Kaila Bryant in Katie Puder’s Dracula. Photo by Jordan Fraker, courtesy Avant Chamber Ballet.

Avant Chamber Ballet artistic director and choreographer Katie Puder presents her world premiere Dracula, running October 27–28 at Dallas Moody Performance Hall. The ballet pays homage to Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel and is set to Philip Glass’ 1999 score, which accompanied the DVD release of the 1931 silent film of the same title starring Bela Lugosi.

“This ballet is years in the making,” says Puder. “I love Philip Glass’ music and have wanted to make this ballet ever since I found the original recording of Dracula. It so perfectly tells the story on its own while being incredibly danceable and melodic.” Puder’s production brings Dracula to the modern age and explores the questions of morality and modernity that have kept the Victorian story captivating for centuries.